Speaking with a Reformed Accent

The pamphlet Who We Are and What We Believe is a great reminder of our identity as the Christian Reformed Church. This pamphlet is available through Faith Alive and can also be accessed through the Digital Library in  English, Korean, Spanish, and Chinese. We would all do well to read it once a year or so. Here’s why:

First, it reminds us that our denominational identity is, at its foundation, squarely within the tradition of orthodox Christianity: “the CRC’s teachings have much in common with the beliefs of Christians all around the world” (p. 13). 

While the person you meet in the grocery store or the one you encounter on the other side of the ocean may not recognize the denominational name “Christian Reformed Church in North America,” you can find common ground by simply saying your church is part of the Christian church found all around the world.

Yet there are unique areas of emphasis within the Reformed tradition that differentiate us from other types of Christians. The pamphlet goes on to explain these as Reformed accent marks. These include a focus on God’s sovereignty, the covenant, and the kingdom. Each triggers thoughts for me.

For those aware of Reformed authors and leaders, citing Abraham Kuyper’s assertion of God’s sovereignty over “every square inch” is a simple and understandable phrase. It prompts in me a vision of a checkerboard of square inches—schools and shops, medical clinics and corporate boardrooms, beaches and ballrooms; the list goes on and on. God is sovereign over all of them.

With this in mind, it is also easy to suggest that Reformed Christians are seven-day-a-week Christians, not just on Sunday. The Christian life is pursued always in every area—and God is sovereign in them all!

A second accent mark is the covenant. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear as many references to the covenant as I used to. Maybe it’s because referring to Christian schools “for covenant youth” appeared to be exclusive (when in reality, Christian schools flow straight out of God’s sovereignty). For whatever reason, our references have decreased, but God’s promises have not! 

God is a covenant-making God. We live within his promises and therefore we have to be promises keepers as well: to train up children in God’s way (Prov. 22:6), to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39), to give cheerfully as we have been blessed (2 Cor. 9:7), to name a few.

Finally, our Reformed accent places an emphasis on the kingdom, giving us responsibility for kingdom building between Christ’s coming and his return. The pamphlet explains, “Jesus came to inaugurate the kingdom of God. His victory over sin and death turned the tide. Though sin, brokenness, and evil are still evident in the world, God’s kingdom is already here and is still coming. Someday Christ will come again, bringing the kingdom in full. In the meantime we pray and act for God’s kingdom to come” (p. 16).

As a result, our denomination is active in some unique kingdom-building activities. We avoid any division between sacred and secular and instead encourage endeavors in “every sphere of human activity: art, media, publishing, law, education, labor relations, caregiving agriculture, business, social justice and politics. No area of human enterprise is exempt.

While we don’t always agree about our individual and corporate kingdom-directed strategies, we do agree that the involvement of Christians in these spheres is part of our Reformed identity.

A once-a-year reading of this statement of identity is a good reminder that our Reformed perspective makes us part of Christ’s church worldwide and allows us to speak with a decided accent. May we be confident in our identity in Christ and clear in voicing what God asks of us.

About the Author

Steven Timmermans is executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Steven Timmermans es el director ejecutivo de la Iglesia Cristiana Reformada en Norteamérica.

스티븐 팀머만스는 북미주 개혁교회 교단 대표이다. 

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Comments

I would question that there is much if anything in this description that a Roman Catholic or Methodist would disagree with? The uniqueness of our tradition can be found in the Reformational Solas or more precisely explained in our confessions. Christians from many other traditions would be puzzled at the idea that "God's sovereignty, Covenant and Kingdom" make us unique. 

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