The Scripture tells us to “prove all things [test all things by the Word of God]; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ it is our responsibility to test and examine what men teach in light of the inerrant Word of God. We will attempt to do this with respect to the teachings of Reformed Theology. May the Lord grant that this analysis would be fair and accurate, and most of all true to His Word.
| A brief paper such as this can hardly do justice to the great Biblical and theological issues that are involved. Realizing this, we have referred the reader to other books and/or literature which deal with these issues in more detail. With the exception of books written by other authors, the literature mentioned in this paper may be ordered from:
The Middletown Bible Church
Tel. (860) 346-0907
Most of these studies may also be found at:
Before exposing some of the doctrinal dangers of Reformed Theology, let us consider some of the positive aspects of this movement. Consider the following strong points:
1) The Bible (66 Books) is considered the only rule of faith and practice. Those in the Reformed tradition have a great reverence and respect for the Word of God and they generally hold to a high view of inspiration, insisting that the Bible is totally without error of any kind. May we all be counted among those who tremble before the Word of our God (Isa. 66:2)!
2) JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH is given its proper place as well as the other great Reformation doctrines such as the UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD OF EVERY BELIEVER and the SOLE AUTHORITY AND SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES. We can only thank God that these great truths were re-discovered and brought to light by the early reformers.
3) The GRACE OF GOD is rightly exalted. Knowing the depravity of the human heart, Reformed men have expressed deep gratitude for the amazing and super abounding grace of God which can reach to the chief of sinners. Every believer needs to join with them in boasting in our merciful and gracious Savior and exulting in His sovereign grace.
4) Because of their emphasis on the depravity of man and the glory and sovereignty of God, those in the Reformed tradition tend to have a GOD-CENTERED emphasis rather than a man-centered, humanistic emphasis which is so common today, even in the evangelical world. Their theology tends to abase sinful man and exalt the God of all glory. It is fitting to do so “for of HIM, and through HIM, and to HIM, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
5) Those in the Reformed tradition usually have a healthy fear of God and a strong abhorrence for sin. They also have a reverential respect for God’s absolute moral standards, especially as they are set forth in the Ten Commandments. “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conduct; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
6) Reformed Theology has on its roles some noted men who ought to be recognized. They have been diligent in the study of the Word of God from which we all can benefit. Such men have sought to point to God and His Word in the outworking of this age of grace. To the measure that these men have imitated Christ, to that measure we can imitate them (1 Cor. 11:1).
7) Those in the Reformed tradition have been very successful in making their views known. They have done this not so much through local church outreach, but through literature. Reformed writers have permeated the Christian book market. A great majority of theology books and Bible commentaries are written from a Reformed perspective. Early dispensationalists such as Darby, Kelly and Ironside used the pen in a mighty way and produced volumes of Christ-exalting books, but later dispensationalists have failed to pass on the torch in quite the same way. For example, no present day dispensationalist has come even close to the quantity and quality of work done by Reformed writer William Hendriksen (now with the Lord) in his New Testament Commentaries [although dispensationalist D. Edmond Hiebert, a dear servant of Christ, has made significant contributions in this area]. R.C.Sproul seems to come out with a new book every month! Most people who are converted to Reformed Theology will admit that they were led to embrace this position as a result of reading certain books.1 Though we do not agree with all that they write, we acknowledge that they have been diligent in making their positions known through the printed page.
Certainly there is much that is commendable in the Reformed movement. These seven points (and more could be added) are certainly to their credit. In general it has been a God-honoring movement which has preached Christ, detested sin, acknowledged that God rules on His sovereign throne and proclaimed the glorious doctrine of justification by grace through faith according to the Scriptures. May these very things be said of us!
With all due respect for this movement, the men of this movement and the fruits of this movement, it is our purpose to alert believers to the doctrinal problems and dangers of Reformed Theology.
Keeping Truth in Balance
Believers are ever in danger of failing to keep God’s truth in balance. Christians often err when they seek to confine God’s truth by locking it in to man-made systems of theology. C. H. Mackintosh made the following observation:
God…has not confined Himself within the narrow limits of any school of doctrine—high, low or moderate. He has revealed Himself. He has told out [made known] the deep and precious secrets of His heart. He has unfolded His eternal counsels, as to the Church, as to Israel, the Gentiles, and the wide creation. Men might as well attempt to confine the ocean in buckets of their own formation as to confine the vast range of divine revelation within the feeble enclosures of human systems of doctrine. It cannot be done, and it ought not to be attempted. Better far to set aside the systems of theology and schools of divinity, and come like a little child to the eternal fountain of Holy Scripture, and there drink in the living teachings of God’s Spirit.2
In another place Mackintosh said this:
Dear friend, your difficulty is occasioned by the influence of a one-sided theology [extreme Calvinism]—a system which we can only compare to a bird with one wing, or a boat with one oar. When we turn to the sacred page of God’s Word, we find THE TRUTH, not one side of the truth, but the whole truth in all its bearings. We find, lying side by side, the truth of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Are we called to reconcile them? Nay, they are reconciled already because they are both set forth in the word. We are to believe and obey. It is a fatal mistake for men to frame systems of divinity. You can no more systematize the truth of God than you can systematize God Himself. Let us abandon, therefore, all systems of theology and schools of divinity, and take the truth.3
By God’s grace may we wholly follow the Word of God, not the frail and faulty systems of men. In the following few points we will see some examples of how Reformed Theology has strayed from the simple and balanced teaching of the Bible, especially regarding the extent of the atonement and saving faith.
1 It is interesting that many Reformed men were converted to Christ as a result of dispensationalists and later converted to Reformed Theology as a result of Reformed writers. For example, John Gerstner wrote a book attacking dispensationalism but he admits, “My conversion came about, I believe, through the witness of a dispensationalist” (Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, page 1).