Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Does It Mean to Be Reformed?

Theological langauge has gotten slippery over the last century, and it's hard to know what certain words actually mean anymore. For example, the word "evangelical" has been so stretched of its content that it is essentially a term referring to anyone who is not a Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or flaming liberal. Another word in danger is "Reformed." John MacArthur (a fine Christian, mind you) is trying to make Reformed theology fit with dispensationalism and premillennialism. John MacArthur may be a fine Christian, but he is not Reformed. For an excellent definition of what it means to be Reformed, and why MacArthur is not a Reformed Christian, Kim Riddlebarger provides a copy of an article written by Dr. Richard Muller (see picture), who is perhaps the most prominent scholar on Reformed theology and Calvinism today. I strongly recommend it. Here is the link.


Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...

What if you don't agree that Reformed has to include an amillennial eschatology? I would argue I am Reformed but am a Dispensationalist. Frankly, Dispensationalism is not some kind of monolithic theological movement that affects all of theology. It merely affects one's eschatology and ecclesiology. I am on staff at a Reformed seminary and yet am Dispensational. Do you not think that merely Mueller has committed the same crime as MacArthur but backward?

3:29 PM  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...

Also, Muller blatantly misunderstands salvation in Dispensationalism. Salvation has not been "different in different dispensations."

3:32 PM  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...

Sorry for the third post, despite what I've said, I enjoy your blog. I caught it off the Covenenticle blog. Keep up the good work promoting the Reformed faith. ;)

4:27 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I appreciate your comments, and they give me much to ponder over. Premillennial eschatology alone would not determine one's status as Reformed. It is the dispensationalist aspect which is the problem. My knowledge of dispensationalism (limited as it is) is right in line with what Muller wrote. Also what Anthony Hoekema wrote in "The Bible and the Future." In other words, salvation does differ in the different dispensations, and that does affect more than just ecclesiology and eschatology. It's a subject that I just took for granted, and MacArthur's comments have done all a service by prompting us to investigate why we believe what we believe. I plan on doing some more reading on this.

Thanks and God bless!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...

Thank you for your cordial attitude. May I recommend "Salvation of Discontinuity" by Allen Ross in "Continuity and Discontinuity: Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson" edited by Paul and John Feinberg from Crossway books. He does a good job of explaining how dispensationalists understand salvation. Also, I would look at the chapter on Salvation in Charles Ryrie's book, "Dispensationalism" from Moody Press.

I think Muller misunderstands dispensationalism and salvation. Many other CT's have acknowledged that dispensationalism does not teach more than one way of salvation. It was a problem on Scofield's original Study Bible which was unclear on the issue but was cleared up in the revised edition.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Stan said...

It is my suspicion that a lot of Dispensationalists don't understand Dispensationalism ... and that a lot of Dispensationalists disagree with each other.

The truth is Dispensationalism takes on various forms. In its "lightest" form, it is simply part of one's eschatology, and a helpful tool for interpreting Scripture. The "Dispensations" almost perfectly correspond to the Covenants of Covenantalism. This light version doesn't suggest that any Dispensations actually end, but simply see them as ongoing. From there it progresses to the other extreme end, such as "Pauline Dispensationalism" that rules out all of Scripture with the exception of Paul's writings and perhaps Revelation. No two Dispensations in this form run concurrently. The Law is no longer applicable in any form or for any purpose.

Depending on where you are on the Dispensationalist Compendium, it is indeed true that some Dispensationalists believe that people in prior Dispensations were saved by a different means than we are today. I would think that, from what I've read and seen and heard, MacArthur would be way on down on the "lighter" version of this.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Stan, thanks for that helpful distinction.

8:36 AM  

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