Evangelical or Reformed?

It is increasingly clear to me that there is clear water between evangelicalism and reformationism.

If we define a religion by its practice as well as its belief system, the differences become more and more obvious.  The purpose of a Reformed Church service is to diligently make use of the ordained means of grace, namely, the sacraments, the word, and prayer.  

These three things working together are the means of communicating to Christians the saving benefits.

Ordinarily, then, partaking regularly of the bread and wine within the context of the proclaimed word and prayer, is the usual means of continuing to receive the blessings of justification, the Holy Spirit, regeneration, assurance of our election and salvation and so on.

Evangelicalism, whether of the older or modern types, refuses to allow a place for the sacraments as effectively communicating and transferring justification.  In an evangelical service communion is only an occasion to remember the cross and its benefits.

(Is this a new evangelical sola?)

This is without doubt an import from the Baptistic mentality, and it is biblically and historically speaking a heresy.  In evangelicalism the sole means of grace is the word read and preached, especially the word preached.  Hence the centrality of the sermon, and the emergence of the cult of the preacher.  Hence, also, the relative unimportance of prayer in an evangelical service.

To an evangelical a reformed service looks and sounds, to an extent, Roman Catholic.  The heretical Anabaptists said exactly the same thing back in the day.  Thus we must not give any weight to that objection.


10 thoughts on “Evangelical or Reformed?

  1. Roger – I must totally agree with you. The worship service is theology in practice. It says alot about what a church believes and holds as important. Having been to a number of different CESA church services I have distilled them to what I call the Broad Evangelical Order of Service:

    Greeting – nothing profound, biblical or theological, just a general ‘Hi, howzit going’ type of thing.
    Songs – normaly accompanied by bad musicianship
    Notices – after all we humans are important
    Some more songs
    Prayers – hardly prayerbook at all
    One more song
    Another song
    Ending – not a benediction note, just a lazy ‘Bye thanks for coming have a nice day’.

    There is no cohesion, no goal and therefore no meaning in these services. There is no theological content and so no education of the laity. Basically everything is done to get ‘the other stuff out of the way’ for the sermon. The most important thing is the sermon with everything else just a footnote of importance. Even then the sermons are pretty dour.

    Consequently we only get a mouthfull of biblical food, compared to the rich diet of the BCP (or any other good liturgy).

  2. Roger,

    With all due respect, do you realize that you are building a straw man here and in practically every other post about evangelicalism you’ve posted? It doesn’t seem to make sense to draw a distinction between evangelicals and reformed when there is a large number of reformed who call themselves evangelicals.

    Are you going to go around and tell reformed men who would completely agree with your statements about worship and sacraments yet also call themselves evangelicals that they are in fact not what they say they are? Are these men just uninformed about what the word means? Surely they are not that dumb.

    This is just a huge generalization. What would you say to a blogger that frequently made generalizations about people who use the BCP, saying that they are all dead orthodox Catholic wannabes? After all, there are a lot of churches that use the BCP that are. Does that give someone the right to make that generalization? Absolutely not, yet that is what you seem to be doing here.

    I’m not saying that your post is not true for some churches, maybe even most churches. What you said about proper worship and use of sacraments is very true. However, the group that your post is aimed at is more specific than “evangelicals,” which contains Reformed, Lutheran, Anglicans and whoever else.

  3. It is insulting to those who are faithful to the true meaning of the term to be thrown into the same pot with those who aren’t.

    If, as you say, the meaning of the term is completely gone, then what would you suggest the poor fools who still use the dead term do? What term would then separate the people who believe that worship and the use of sacraments renews their covenant with God and gives them grace to “evangelize” the world and defeat God’s enemies from those who believe that worship and the use of sacraments merely aids in their own personal, selfish salvation and could care less about transforming the culture around them?

    What should the people who believe that the Sabbath service communicates “evangelical” graces call themselves but evangelicals? Or do you suggest that we just sit around and improve our own salvation until we die and hope Jesus uses someone else to save the world?

  4. Ben, I am a little confused at your upsetness. I wonder if you are reading too much into the post. There is no attack upon persons here, just an observation of the gap that exists between modern evangelicalism and historical reformationism.

  5. Perhaps I appear more upset than I really am. I’m just trying to get across that their are reformed evangelicals who have a healthy view of sacraments. The two are not at odds.

  6. No doubt about it. I am simply saying that the term evangelical today means a variety of Baptist, and that the two words evangelical and reformed no longer belong in the same sentence.

  7. Roger

    I have some sympathy for Bentok on this one. I know a fair number of people who want to discard the term ‘evangelical’ for roughly the reasons you give above, but who can offer nothing in return. Then there are those who dislike the word ‘Protestant’ because it sounds too much like loyalist thugs in Belfast. And some don’t like the word ‘Reformed’ because we should always be reforming and never reformed, and on and on it goes.

    In the end, the difference is between being evangelical and being an Evangelical. We must all be the former; we may not wish to be lumped in with some who are the latter.

    That said, the doctrine we hold must mould our worship, as well as be demonstrated in that worship. No wonder so many services are just celebrations of human achievements. That is why I, and others, hold on to the old Prayer Book; the theology is sound, and the way it brings us to worship God is evangelical (that is, according to the Gospel!).


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