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 Reformed theology is a way of thinking about God and God's relation to the world. It is centered on the sovereignty and majesty of God. Reformed theology evolved during the 16th century religious movement known as the Protestant Reformation. It emphasizes God's supremacy over everything and humanity's chief purpose as being to glorify and enjoy God forever. In its confessions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) expresses the faith of the Reformed tradition.

Central to this tradition is the affirmation of the majesty, holiness, and providence of God who creates, sustains, rules, and redeems the world in the freedom of sovereign righteousness and love.

Related to this central affirmation of God's sovereignty are other great themes of the Reformed tradition:

(1) The election of the people of God for service as well as for salvation; Covenant life marked by a disciplined concern for order in the church according to the Word of God;

(2) A faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and seeks proper use of the gifts of God's creation;

(3) The recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny, which calls the people of God to work for the transformation of society by seeking justice and living in obedience to the Word of God.

(Book of Order, G-2.0500)

Reformed theology came out of the Reformation and in particular the theology of Calvin (1509-1564), although its roots go (1483–1546)back to Augustine (345-430), and was influenced greatly by the breakthrough work and theology of Martin Luther. It was formulated by the puritans, especially in the Westminster confession of faith (1646). This Confession is the enduring fruit of the solemn Assembly of some 100 leading Puritan divines, convened at Westminster Abbey in London from July 1, 1643 through to Feb.,1649.

Distinctives of Reformed Theology

Centered on God Based on God's Word alone

Committed to faith alone

Devoted to Jesus Christ

Structured by three covenants (redemption, works and grace)

from Grace Unknown the heart of reformed theology by R. C. Sproul

In its confessions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) identifies with the affirmations of the Protestant Reformation. The focus of these affirmations is the rediscovery of God’s grace in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. The Protestant watchwords— grace alone,c faith alone,d Scripture alonee—embody principles of understanding which continue to guide and motivate the people of God in the life of faith.

Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone

Solo Christo! By Christ's Work Alone are We Saved

Sola Gratia: Salvation by Grace Alone

Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone

The Five Solas of the Reformation A Brief Statement Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D

Professor Byron Curtis, a professor at Geneva College says that Reformed Theology embraces foundational Protestant beliefs. According to Curtis, to be Reformed is:

To confess the consensus of the five first centuries of the church:

1. Classic theism: One omnipotent, benevolent God, distinct from creation.

2. Nicene and Chalcedonian Trinitarianism: one God in three eternally existent persons, equal in power and glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus is Lord! Jesus Christ, the God-Man, fully human, fully divine, the one mediator between God & the human race, incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, & coming again.

4. Humanity created in the image of God, yet tragically fallen & profoundly in need of restoration to God through Christ.

5. The Visible Church: the community of the redeemed, indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the mystical body of Christ on earth.

6. The one, holy, universal, and apostolic church.

7. The Sacraments: visible signs and seals of the grace of God, ministering Christ’s love to us in our deep need.

8. The Christian life: characterized by the prime theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.


The Great Ends of the Church are:

(1) The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;

(2) the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;

(3) the maintenance of divine worship;

(4) the preservation of the truth;

(5) the promotion of social righteousness;

(6) and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

Book of Order G. 1.0200

A Contemporary View TULIP -- Five points of Calvinism -- With Some Clarifications from Dr. Karl Barth

by Rev. Glenn Wilson

Thje FIve Points of Calvinism, which were established by the Synod of Dordt after Calvin died, can be remembered by the English mnemonic TULIP are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perserverance of the Saints. At the heart of the Points is the belief in Predestiantion.This has been a hard idea to get a handle on because the Bible clearly talks about predestination in many Scriptures, such as:

  • John 1:12-13: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, WHO WERE BORN NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD.

  • Philippians 1:29: FOR TO YOU IT HAS BEEN GRANTED FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE IN HIM, but also to suffer for his sake.

  • Romans 8:29-30: FOR WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE ALSO PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

  • Ephesians 1:5: HE PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

  • Ephesians 1:11 Also WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE, HAVING BEEN PREDESTINED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE who works all things after the counsel of His will.

  • Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying and praising the Lord; AND AS MANY AS HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.

The preceding scriptures clearly show that the Lord is very active in salvation. He did not simply provide the means of salvation, the cross, but He also ensured the application of the blood of Christ through predestination.

Please consider that it is God who:

    1. - draws people to Himself (John 6:44,65).

    2. - creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).

    3. - appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48).

    4. - works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29).

    5. - chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4).

    6. - chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14).

    7. - grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29).

    8. - grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

    9. - calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).

    10. - causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3).

    11. - predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30).

    12. - predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5).

    13. - predestines us according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11).

    14. - makes us born again not by our will but by His will (John 1:12-13).

However, the Scriptures also show that God gives the ability to beleive and choose and affirm ones receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, such as:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (trusts, clings to, relies on) in him (our part) should not perish, but have everlasting life."

John 3:3,5-7 "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.... Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."

John 1:12,13 " But as many as received him ( our part ), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

John 3:17,18 "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him ( our part ) is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Acts 4:12 " Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Acts 2:38 "Then Peter sairist for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Rom 10:9, 10; 13 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead (our part), thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation...... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins (our part), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

1 John 4:15 "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." Acts 3:19 "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;"
Mark 8:36 "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

John 3:36 "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (our part): and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

James 4:8-10 "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

2 Pet 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

Hence, seeing th tension between the two Biblical points of view, the great theologian Karl Barth was shown a way of looking at election through Christ that allows for personal affirmation of Christ -- which we do in the Presbyterian Church -- and the facts that God is sovereign and that He has the power to predestine, and to allow for a freedom of choice in any part of the process if He so desires, because He is sovereign.


    What is predestination?
    Essentially, predestination is a way of speaking about the sovereignty of God. Predestination is an act of God's will through which He elects or chooses those whom He calls to faith and thus to eternal life.

    Where does the idea of predestination come from?
    Predestination is a concept which is rooted in the Biblical images of God’s calling of a chosen people. The apostle Paul writes, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born within a larger family” (Roman 8:29). And, in Ephesians, we read, “He destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5).

    Many theologians throughout the centuries of Christianity have expressed various, sometimes opposing, understandings of predestination. Some theologians, such as Augustine, have seen in predestination only a positive calling to eternal life, emphasizing God’s election of those who have salvation from sin and death. Others, such as John Calvin, have seen a negative aspect to predestination as well as a positive one, emphasizing that some are foreordained for salvation while others are foreordained for damnation. Still other theologians have seen predestination as God’s foreknowledge of those who would choose faith.

    What are some misconceptions about predestination?
    Many have charged Presbyterians with teaching that God has, from all eternity, condemned some people to eternal death. Such a teaching is known as the doctrine of “double predestination” (also known as the doctrine of “reprobation”).

    Presbyterians today do not adhere to an understanding of predestination which professes that God draws pleasure from foreordaining some persons for condemnation. Presbyterians believe that such teachings are not consistent with the Biblical image of a God “who desires everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).

    Those of us who are called to faith can give thanks for God's initiative in dealing with us so graciously. Yet, we cannot presume to know anything about God's purpose for those who seem to have rejected faith. We perceive it to be dangerous to move beyond the mystery of predestination to try to explain what God has not revealed.

    Another misconception is that Presbyterians believe in predestination as a kind of fatalism wherein God determines everything in advance, effectively denying the reality of human choice. Such a fatalistic view places the blame of sin’s existence squarely upon God.

    Presbyterians believe that we, as sinners, are responsible for our sinful acts even though we are unable to turn away from them without the gift of God's grace. But we also believe that God's grace transforms the human will so that it can freely obey God's will.

    Presbyterians believe that predestination affirms the sovereignty and freedom of God without rejecting human choice and responsibility. Predestination is really all about God’s grace.        


    So, why do Presbyterians believe in predestination?
    T here are a number of good reasons for maintaining a doctrine of predestination. First of all, Presbyterians have always stressed the freedom of God, and predestination has been connected to a doctrine of God's freedom and of God's lordship over the universe—over all creation. The doctrine of predestination re-emphasizes that God alone is Lord. 

    Second, the doctrine of predestination functions to safeguard the doctrine of justification by grace. Presbyterians experience faith as a gift from God. We believe that God comes to us with His grace—to which we can only respond with gratitude. Predestination is a way of saying that God has taken the initiative in giving us this gift—and all gifts.

    Third, we Presbyterians can see this doctrine as a source of assurance of God's love for us. It is a doctrine that gives us confidence as we stand before God as forgiven sinners.

    Finally, we see predestination as part of a doctrine of providence: God cares about everything He has created, and God has a purpose for each person who has been created.