Why I Lovingly Push Reformed Theology

Periodically, an article is published to which I am compelled to respond. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to respond with nastiness or even direct disagreement. A response is not a reaction. The following article is an attempt at a friendly response to an article published today over at RAANetwork. The goal here is not to discredit the article or punch holes in its reasoning. My goal isn’t even to correct anything I believe to be improperly stated. Rather, my goal here will be to offer an alternative viewpoint, or perhaps to approach the subject from a bit of a different angle.

Defining Our Terms

Many well-intentioned articles have been written to persuade Reformed Christians to go easy—fly under the radar—in the discussion over Calvinism and non- (or anti-) Calvinism. Let us take a moment before diving into this discussion ourselves to discuss some important definitions. It’s important that we all understand from the outset that, when we say someone is Reformed or Calvinistic, we don’t all mean the same thing. Some equate Reformed Theology with Calvinism. Others recognize that Calvinism has come to be defined in Evangelicalism as a much different thing from Reformed Theology. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the two terms to describe two different, but related, concepts.

First, when I say Calvinism, I will mean the minimalistic adherence to the five points of Calvinism as outlined in the Canons of Dort. Second, when I say Reformed, I will mean a much more comprehensive approach to the Christian life that certainly affirms the five points of Calvinism, but also holds to historic Reformed expressions and formulations of both belief and practice as outlined in the historic Reformed confessions of faith. By this definition, many among the Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and even Baptists fit comfortably under the heading Reformed.

(Note: I believe the article mentioned above does a decent job of using the historical definitions of these terms.)

It Is Biblical

One area where you might say I agree that we should not be in the business of pushing Reformed Theology is in regard to pushing “mere Calvinism.” If all that a man ever seems to talk about is the five points of Calvinism to the expense of the other godly wisdom we’ve inherited from the early Reformers, Puritans, and Particular Baptists, that man will inevitably exhibit a certain imbalance in his life and doctrine. Reformed Theology is holistic, touching every part of the Christian life.

Q.6: What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures?

A. The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man (Collins, The Baptist Catechism of 1693).

Reformed Theology is holistic because it is biblical, and the Bible is holistic. This is where Calvinistic Christians have often gone wrong in recent decades. We have often focused on the academic aspect of the Christian belief system without demonstrating the connectedness of Christian thought with Christian practice. We have failed to maintain an element of the Christian life that was essential for the Reformers, Puritans, and Particular Baptists: that knowledge not coupled with understanding and wisdom (right knowledge that does not lead to right action) is not biblical knowledge.

The problem with Reformed Theology is a PR problem more than anything else. The problem isn’t that Reformed Theology isn’t biblical. The problem is that the acquiescence and application of Reformed Theology on the part of many Reformed Christians has not been biblical. Many of us have accepted Reformed Theology because it is true; it lines up with Scripture (knowledge). That’s a good thing. However, how many Reformed Christians apply themselves to imbibing these teachings as they are found in Scripture (understanding) and actually walking them out in their everyday lives (wisdom)?

It’s not enough merely to affirm Reformed Theology as true and biblical. When our Christian and non-Christian friends hear us discussing Reformed Theology, if they only hear platitudes and well-structured arguments, but they see lives unaffected by these truths, they rightly recognize that something is “off.” What’s “off” is the fact that we have biblical knowledge, but we have not coupled that knowledge with biblical wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:17-18).

One Church United in Truth

When properly acquired and applied, Reformed Theology is more powerful than any other Scriptural, theological formulation in uniting Christians with one another. For many of our readers, this assertion doubtless seems odd. After all, we’ve been told, it’s doctrine that divides, and especially that dreaded Reformed doctrine (queue suspenseful music).

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On the contrary, the Bible teaches that proper doctrine unites the church. When Christ ascended, Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, He bestowed gifts upon the church. He not only led captivity captive (freeing us from our slavery to sin, the traditions of men, the world, the flesh, and the devil), but He also gave godly men to the church to unite us in proper Christian doctrine. The result of this unity would be that we would no longer be as babes in the faith carried about by every current of doctrine, but we would be built up like a man of full stature able to stand with feet firmly planted on the riverbed of the world, immovable and complete with the strength that every part supplies, and with Christ as our Head (Eph. 4:7-16).

Now for a sober thought. To undervalue unity in truth (and that’s what Reformed Theology is: truth) is to weaken and divide the church where God has ordained that ought to find our true unity. Is the church divided? We sure are. Is it proper that we should point to true doctrine as the source of that disunity? May it never be! Rather we should pray, as Paul and Timothy did for the church at Colossae, that God’s children would grow in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Colossians 1:9).

Real Sources of Disunity

What then is the source of our disunity? There are several sources to which we can and should point. First among them are divisive brothers. The Bible is riddled with warnings against divisive brothers. They are called an abomination to God in Proverbs (6:16-19). Paul wrote to Titus: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Tit. 3:10-11; NASB). The problem with these men is not the doctrine being taught from the pulpit, but a divisive spirit that has gone unchecked within them.

Another source of disunity in the church is an unteachable spirit. This isn’t solely the fault of individual congregants. All too often, churches leave their doctrinal positions undefined. As people join their ranks, they come in with the assumption that the church is fluid where they are fixed. They are allowed from the onset to believe that they, as an untrained, non-ordained member of the church will be able to sway the church this way or that on their pet doctrine. Rather than being shaped by the word preached, they desire to shape the word preached through their human influence. They prefer to accumulate for themselves teachers that tell them what they want to hear, turning their ears away from the truth (2Tim. 4:3-4).

Once a man allows this presumption to fester in his heart, a hostile environment is inevitable. The moment the pastor authoritatively opposes his pet doctrine, a wound is opened within his soul and the infection of bitterness begins to set in. In this way, the unteachable spirit is not unlike the discontented spirit. Both can lead to disunity if unchecked, and both will use Reformed Theology as an occasion to sow division within the body. We would be wise to keep in mind, however, that Reformed Theology is not the cause but the occasion of this division.

A third source of disunity is immaturity in the faith. Reformed Christians have affectionately coined the term cage-stage Calvinist to describe these immature believers, but it’s important to recognize that this phenomenon is not unique to Reformed Theology. Truth in the hands of an immature man is always a dangerous weapon. Wise parents don’t hand scalpels to their toddlers and leave them unsupervised. However, in the hands of a skilled surgeon, a scalpel is a necessary tool. The same is true for sound biblical knowledge, such as Reformed Theology.

Lusts (or passions) can also be a real source of disunity within the body. James points out that the cause of all quarrels is unchecked passion (Jas. 4:1-3). We want, but we do not have, so we steal, murder, slander, and destroy. We bite and devour one another, when we should be building one another up in the faith.

These are all sources of disunity. They all point to man’s universal, sinful condition. Note, however, that nowhere in Scripture does the Bible point to truth properly acquired and applied as a source of unity. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

Reformed Theology Is High Theology

So is it wrong or unwise to contend for Reformed Theology with our brothers and sisters in the faith? It depends. It depends on your heart and on the heart of your listener. If your heart, or the heart of your listener, is to win an argument rather than to demonstrate and share the rich spiritual benefit that is to be found in an affirmation of biblical truth, then your heart is not in the right place to be discussing Reformed Theology. There is a time and a place for swordplay: among parties who agree. The problem often comes when we take that playfulness and try to employ it with people who diametrically oppose our understanding of Scripture. We must approach these conversations with much more prayerfulness and seriousness, because much more is at stake.

What is it that’s at stake? What is it that Reformed Theology can grant our non-Reformed brothers and sisters that they don’t already have? In a word: consistency. We don’t deny that Arminians, and all other forms of non-Calvinists, can and do have a high view of God. The fact is, however, that Reformed Theology offers the highest view of God there is.

Our non-Calvinistic brothers and sisters will not care to hear from us that we believe their high view of God to be inconsistent with their approach to biblical interpretation. However, that is precisely what we believe as Reformed Christians. Yet it should be noted that they have the same critique of our theology. Why not just be honest about it? Much as it would be unloving for me to have a prolonged relationship with a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon without ever sharing the gospel with them, it is (to a drastically less significant degree) likewise unloving for us as Reformed Christians to think we have the richest, most deeply rewarding view of God and then to withhold it from our brothers and sisters in the faith. Why would we deny them this rich heritage that we have found so rewarding to our faith and practice?

Might it be because we have not truly found it rewarding? Might it be that we have not thought out how truly holistic Reformed Theology is and applied its teaching to every aspect of our life and our doctrine? See, our zeal for truth tells those who disagree with us how truly committed we are to that truth. If we have no zeal for truth we are telling others, whether we intend to or not, that we find it neither true nor beneficial. This has not been our experience, though. We affirm Reformed Theology not simply because we have been logically convinced; we affirm it also because we have been experientially convinced. That is, unless we haven’t. Our actions will tell.

The Necessary Contrast between Christianity and Rome

Not only do our non-Reformed brothers and sisters miss out on the benefit of a high theology, but often they also fail to see the very necessary contrast between Christianity and Rome. There are many pastors and theologians in the church today who, as a result of their abandonment of Reformation theology, have completely abandoned the Reformation! Everywhere you look, there are pastors, seminary professors, theologians, and biblical scholars who claim to represent a Protestant tradition or denomination while simultaneously holding out a hand of fellowship to Rome. These men and women speak of three orthodox groups under the umbrella of Christianity: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism.

As Reformed Christians, we recognize only one of three groups just listed as truly Christian according to the Bible. I have had professors that would view this statement as divisive. Well, with all due respect to my professors, the Council of Trent was just as much to blame for this division as any Reformer, Puritan, Baptist, or Reformed confession or catechism. When the papacy holds a council that takes an essential doctrine such as Justification by Faith Alone and calls any who teach it accursed, this act alone is enough to place Rome squarely outside the pale of biblical orthodoxy.

Yet we have “Protestant” Christians claiming that those who have called us anathema (and have not retracted it) are under our same umbrella. We shouldn’t merely push Reformed Theology because of its high view of God. Reformed Theology is also a necessary guard from adopting heterodox views of our relationship to Rome and the Eastern Orthodox church.

Conclusion

Again, why do I push Reformed Theology? I push Reformed Theology because it’s biblical. I push Reformed Theology because biblical truth, when rightly acquired and applied, unites. I push Reformed Theology because it offers the most consistent interpretation of the Bible with a truly high view of God. I push Reformed Theology because it keeps us from erroneous, though perhaps well-intentioned, attempts at unity with groups with whom the Bible requires we disagree. For all of these reasons, it would be both unloving and a disregard for the unity of the church for Reformed Christians not to push Reformed Theology.

Edit – After getting some feedback from the author of the article that inspired this one, I wanted to offer the following statement as a kind of second conclusion:

It seems to me that the heart of the article’s author is in the right place, wanting to bridge gaps between disparate Christians and break down barriers. I would prefer that Reformed Christians with such a heart boldly use the terminology we believe to be the most biblical, but do so in such a way that we utterly destroy the stereotypes people have erected of us in their minds. That is to say that we should employ Reformed terminology (early in our conversations) in such a way that our non-Reformed friends are completely disarmed by the love and tenderness behind it.

The Local Church in Black Spirituality

In continuing this mini-series regarding Black spirituality, the third commonality with Reformed spirituality is a high view of the local church. In other words, a point in which Reformed and traditional Black Christians both hold is that a person cannot truly be spiritual and grow in the Lord if they neglect the local church. This means that church membership is necessary and vital for Christian growth. In regards to the formation of the Church, Chapter 26, Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the 1689 LBCF states

In the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus calls to Himself from out of the world, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience which He prescribes to them in His Word. Those who are thus called, He commands to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and for the due performance of that public worship, which He requires of them in the world.

The members of these churches are saints because they have been called by Christ, and because they visibly manifest and give evidence of their obedience to that call by their profession and walk. Such saints willingly consent to walk together according to the appointment of Christ, giving themselves up to the Lord and to one another, according to God’s will, in avowed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

This is a statement in which traditional Black Christians will give a hearty amen to. This is particularly the case since it has been well-established that the Black Church was formed out of necessity, not by convenience. The unfortunate reality is that the historical racism of mainline denominations in the 18th and 19th century established the legitimacy of the Black church. For the purposes of this blog, the necessary formation of the Black church had a very important consequence on how many traditional Black Christians view the local church – namely, that the gospel of Christ should nurture and proclaim the eschatological hope of Christianity.

churchBecause the Black church preached the gospel of hope and developed a robust theological view of suffering, the Black church (as an institution) became the center of the Black community. Historically, the local church was seen as a city of refuge and provided the true hope to those dealing with the numerous difficulties of life. Many Black Christians would agree with the Puritans that this world is a vale of tears, but they praised God that there is “an opening gate of glory at its end”. They realized that there truly was a better and more heavenly country and viewed this current life as a pilgrimage. This was the message that was proclaimed to the Black community and the surrounding world. For traditional Black Christians, the local church (primarily through its preaching and hymnody) nurtured this hope and proclaimed the hope of this gospel to the world. In this way, the local church is the city set on a hill, the light of the world, and the salt of the earth – it offers a glimpse of our eternal state and our eternal inheritance as believers. For a more thorough discussion of this, feel free to listen to Thabiti Anyabwile’s sermon on the contributions of African-American theology.

One of the most upsetting trends in modern expressions of the Black Church is that this richly biblical theology is being replaced by Word of Faith/Prosperity teaching. The theology of suffering, which served as a historical distinctive of Black theology, is being cast aside for such bad teaching, and the impact is that the Black community has grown distrustful of the Black church. In my view, the Black church will only remain relevant as an institution only when it returns back to its roots on the matter.

Another very important aspect of the local church is church membership. In regards to church membership, Chapter 26, Paragraph 7 of the 1689 LBCF states

All believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches when and where they have opportunity so to do, and all who are admitted into the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government of that church, in accordance with the rule of Christ.

This is a statement that all devout Black Christians believe. Simply put, church membership is a must for any person who calls themselves a Christian. Because the Black church plays such a central role in the community, virtually all Black millennials with Christian parents were raised in the church. By and large, traditional Black parents insist on church participation by not giving their children an option. As children, we served as ushers, choir members, janitors, landscapers, and all sorts of roles, with the intention that we would understand how important the local church is. This helps to explain why Black churches continue to see stable participation from millennials, whereas millennials as a whole are completely abandoning the church as a whole. This also meant that those who did not attend church were considered godless and worldly. This produces a very strong church-world distinction within Black spirituality.

It is at this point where traditional Black spirituality meshes much more with Reformed Baptists rather than Reformed Presbyterians. The concept of covenant children and the purposefully mixed nature of the church fall on deaf ears for many traditional Black Christians. Black parents have no problem telling their children to pray to God concerning various matters, while also confessing that their children aren’t Christians. Black parents have no problem forcing their children to read their Bible, to go to church, or to participate in family devotion. As a child, the most often quoted passage to emphasize the distinction between the true church and the world was 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,” I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Because the church is seen as the place that God’s people are strengthened and encouraged against the assault from the world, this meant that the Black church met multiple times during the week. When I was converted as a teenager, the church that I attended had morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day, Wednesday evening Bible study, and Friday evening prayer meeting – and it was expected that you attended (and properly prepared) for all of them. It was also assumed that we would visit churches in our local associations as well whenever important events appeared on the calendar. In a number of ways, a person’s active participation in these services was an indicator of their spiritual health. It was during these activities in which older, mature believers took an interest in young converts like myself – who taught me about the necessity of personal holiness and the significant of the local church. Moreover, the church-world distinction became more pronounced as Black preachers taught unashamedly on the doctrine of hell. We were taught to flee to Christ and His church to escape the condemnation that will occur to the world around us. Thus, the church-world distinction was very black-and-white (no pun intended!).

For these reasons, many modern arguments on the unimportance of the local church is nonsensical to those who grew up in my background. As a new convert, I was taught that it is foolish to separate our personal devotion to the Lord from our commitment to the local church. This is a point in which Reformed Christians and Black Christian can affirm with each other. For the next blog, we will begin to address the significant differences between traditional Black spirituality and Reformed spirituality. We will start with the divergent views concerning the means of grace.

Black Spirituality vs. Reformed Spirituality – Part 1

As a Black Physics professor who is also Reformed Baptist, I usually get asked three questions:

Why have I chosen to join a church with no other minorities? This question is usually asked from other Black Christians and usually there are numerous undertones to this question. Sometimes it’s suggested that I’m abandoning the Black church or Black people in general. Other times, the question suggests that I’m under a theological imperialism.

How do I reconcile science with the Christian faith? When this question is asked by unbelievers (which is usually the case because of my vocation), it’s usually a statement of incredulity and thus the question becomes an apologetics question. When this question is asked by believers, it’s usually a question about the scientific method, the creation debate, and the claims of the modern scientific atheists.

However, the question asked by most Reformed people is: Why aren’t there more Black Reformed Christians? There have been numerous answers to this question and honestly, the answers are superficial or, at times, downright insulting. Some people assert that diverging musical styles are the reason that Blacks don’t attend Reformed churches (as if all Black Christians like gospel music and don’t sing hymns). Some people assert that it’s because of the lack of expressiveness (as if all Black Christians are charismatic).

My goal is to eventually answer all of these questions, but I want to specifically focus on the third question. I believe that the essential reason is because of diverging views of Christian spirituality. What are the marks of a truly spiritual person? How does one grow in their devotion to Christ? What are the marks of a godly leader? My experience convinces me that most devout Black Christians answer these questions very differently than devout Reformed Christians. This seems to imply that traditional Black spirituality is quite different than Reformed spirituality. In this blog series, I want to address the commonalities and differences between traditional Black spirituality and Reformed spirituality and then address the trends in modern Black spirituality.

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Let’s start with the first commonality: a high view of the Lord’s Day. Chapter 22, Paragraph 8 of the 1689 LBCF states:

The Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

churchIt may be surprising to most Reformed people, but most devout Black Christians would completely affirm this statement. Most of the debates regarding the Sabbath that have occurred within the broader evangelical world and even within Baptist circles with those who affirm New Covenant Theology would be non-issues for devout Black Christians. Most black Christians believe that a person cannot truly be spiritual and grow in the Lord if they perpetually disrespect the Lord’s Day.

For those of us who have grown up in the Black Church, Lord’s Day piety was a central part of our life. For devout Black families, any extracurricular activity must be done on Saturdays because Sunday was set apart for the Lord. Moreover, many Black churches believed in an entire Lord’s Day, not just the morning of the Lord’s Day. As a child, when we woke up on Sunday morning, gospel music would play in the home so that our minds would be focused on Christ. We attended Sunday School at 9am, attended morning worship at 11:15am, had fellowship and lunch time within the church immediately following church (which usually lasted for a couple of hours), and then had evening service. It was firmly believed that God met with His people in a special way during corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. It was during our fellowship/lunch time that we mutually edified each other, found out what was going on with each other, and talked about what we were studying in the Scriptures. Sundays were also the day in which many members would perform acts of benevolence for sick church members (which we called the “sick and shut-in” ministry).

Consequently, it was considered sinful not to participate in the life of the Church on the Lord’s Day because you wanted to watch sports or do other worldly recreations. If a person would miss more than two consecutive Sundays, numerous people would call to see if something was wrong and at times, that would prompt a visitation from the deacons and pastor. Lord’s Day piety was also reflected in the attire that one would wear to church. It was assumed that you put on your “church clothes” when you went to church and if not, you had “disrespected the Lord and His house.” Some families would actually wash their cars every Saturday because in their view, “the Lord wants their best.”

For these reasons, many older Black Christians do not understand the casual and lax nature of many evangelicals, including some Reformed believers, concerning the Lord’s Day. No older Black Christian would believe the argument that “all of life is worship” means that the Lord’s Day is not a holy day. Very few older Black Christians would think it’s acceptable for people to come to church with flip-flops on and a T-shirt. Very few older Black Christians would think that the Lord’s Day ended by 12pm so that church members can watch the NFL on Sunday. All of these are innovations for the modern evangelical church, but this is a point in which Reformed and Black Christians both hold – Lord’s Day devotion is an essential and necessary component of the Christian life.

For the next blog, we will address another strong commonality: a high view of the sacraments.

Another Reformed Newbie: Part 2

Okay, so this is Part 2 of my reformed journey. You can view my previous post here, and in this post I wanted to highlight what I did learn coming out of the Black church.

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Basically, I feel like a baby in Christ, like I’m starting all over from scratch. I know I shouldn’t throw out my entire Christian life until this point, but sometimes it feels like the best thing to do because I’m always having to re-learn something that I thought I already knew, over and over again. It’s tempting to be frustrated, angry, and depressed. It’s tempting to be me-centered, rather than Christ-centered as I’m watching a good majority of my “work” be burned up in front of my eyes (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Nevertheless, I’m still here, and God has blessed me with another opportunity to continue to work and strive in this Christian life. So in the words of the Apostle Paul, daily “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I gained absolutely nothing from growing up in a Black church, or give you the impression that nothing good exists within Black churches. I actually learned a lot, and considering that Reformed people like to emphasize how historic Reformed Theology is, I think that there are a few things that I can see in common:

For instance, I learned about tarrying in prayer and the importance of prayer in the Black church. Now, we weren’t quoting from the Valley of Vision, but I learned that you can use Scripture as a guide for prayer and that God hears and works through our prayers. And this phrase was repeated often during the church service: He may not come when you want Him, but He’ll be there right on time.

Learning and memorizing Scripture was practically mandatory growing up. As children, we learned a lot through Sunday School and Bible Studies. But I specifically remember having to stand up every Sunday morning at the end of the Sunday School hour with the rest of my class in front of the entire church, and we were required to give an account of what we learned and the verse we had memorized. Not only did this make our teacher accountable to the entire church, but it also gave us a sense of personal responsibility to be diligent in our own learning and understanding of what was being taught. Thinking about it now, having to go through that for so many years is probably what has made me so comfortable with asking questions now when I don’t understand the things being taught at church.

I also learned about the importance of the Church, as a whole. The term “church family” was huge in my world because everyone literally treated you like family. We were trained to have titles for everyone who was older than us (i.e. Miss, Ms., Mr., Mrs., Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, Deacon, Pastor, Minister, and on and on). And these people treated you like they were kin to you too! I can’t tell you how many times I was scolded and reprimanded by other people who saw me do something. Being taught that what goes on in the dark will always come out in the light  just meant that someone was always going to see me, no matter what, and let my mother know what I did! And yes, I feared the one (my mom) who could destroy my body (with a butt whipping), as well as, the One who could destroy my body and soul (Luke 12:2-5).

Not only that, I learned that the church was larger than our building. We heavily supported other local churches in our county through fall and spring revivals, homecoming services, and other events. (My husband told me I grew up following a liturgical calendar before I even knew what a liturgy was). I never had the sense that my church was the only church I needed to be concerned about. Granted, as a child I probably didn’t care as much as I should have, but it did make me aware that I am a member of this larger, universal church that has a history and a future. I’m not exactly sure where I lost sight of “church history”, but I do remember hearing about my church’s history at least once a year. It helped me see that the church was important and had always been important to our community. With Reformed Theology I am seeing that church history is much broader than I previously knew, but at least I have a little groundwork on the topic.

Finally, the gospel was preached, and it was central to our church. From the moment you walked in the church, you saw the pulpit up front and center. The communion table was center too, with a giant Bible opened on it to Psalm 23 every Sunday, except for Communion Sundays. As children, we were taught to show reverence in the church. You couldn’t run up on the pulpit (we thought that God would smite us or something crazy would happen). The Lord’s Supper was a guarded and serious activity that went on around you, and all you were allowed to do was watch. There was no participation unless you had made a public profession of faith and were baptized, and even then, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 was read every time before communion started. So even then, I never approached the table lightly because I did not want God to judge me for being to casual. All in all, Christ was the center of everything that went on, and trust me, I knew I was sinner in desperate need of a Savior. I also knew that it was God’s mercy and grace that would keep me every day. My pastor always emphasized that no one knew the day or the hour that Christ would return, but we were exhorted to always be ready and look for him at every moment. And we would literally, as children, stand outside looking to see if we could see Him.

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I will say, on a really positive note, that writing this section has really opened my eyes to how much I did learn growing up. Although a good chunk of Black churches have picked up the word of faith and prosperity gospel messages, in God’s providence, I was allowed to begin my Christian journey in a sound church. I know they didn’t have everything right, but it was sound. Now, many people have strayed from that over the years, and many people that I grew up with have nothing to do with the Lord these days, but God saw fit to keep watch over me all these years. And fortunately, these are really good things that I can build on as I’m learning more about Reformed Theology. But next time, I’m going to be pretty real about some things that I did learn in the Black church that I wish I had never known. Stay tuned!