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What Is Reformed Theology?

Reformed Theology is expressing specific areas of the study of God, and magnifying key elements that are, and have been, easily corrupted. It guides people into a more deep and clear understanding of God.  It came about during the period known as the reformation when the church had become widely corrupt and lost; to bring the church back to its foundations and original teachings.  It brings the focus back to the apostolic teachings and dependence on God.

It can simply be summarized as this: to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  More specifically it can be stated like this: Scripture alone is the absolute standard, and in it, God makes it clear that through Christ's works alone are we saved, by God's grace alone, through Faith alone, all for God's eternal glory alone.

Five principles came about in response to the corrupted teachings of the 16th century.  These five principles are known as the five 'solas', Latin for 'Alone'.

The 5 Solas.
  • In Scripture Alone (Psalm 119:18; Psalm 138:2; 2 Tim. 3:14-17)
  • Salvation is through Christ's Works Alone (1 Tim 2:5-6; Col 1:13-18)
  • By God's Grace Alone (Ephesians 1:3-8)
  • Through Faith Alone (Galatians 3:6-11)
  • For God's Glory Alone (1 Cor 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11; Rev 1:6, 7:12; 2 Peter 3:1; Eph 3:21; Rom 11:36)
In understanding the power and majesty of God's Grace, 5 more principles helped the reformers explain the immensity of God's Grace. 

The absolute dependence and need for God's Grace, how God chooses whom to save by his own will, how those who are chosen are atoned for, the power of God's grace in the chosen, and the absolute security of God's grace over those whom were chosen and atoned for.

The 5 Principles In Saving Grace
  • Total Depravity of humanity (Mark 7:21-23; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-12, 6:20; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:3,15)
  • Unconditional Election by God (John 1:12-13; Phil. 1:29; John 6:28-29; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23)
  • Particular Atonement by Christ (Matt. 25:32-33, 26:28; John 10:11, 15, 17:9; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27; Isaiah 53:12)
  • Irresistible Grace of God (Romans 9:16; Philippians 2:12-13; John 1:12-13, 6:28-29, 37; Acts 13:48;
  • Once Saved, Always Saved (John 6:47, 10:27-28; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Phil. 1:6)
When applying all 10 principles to understanding scripture we can rightly know scripture, and what the Apostles themselves taught.  These principles also help us filter out false teachings and keep our natural self idolizing desires in check.

Why did these 10 principles come about?

They came about in response to continued corrupted teachings in the church which some were:
  • Sacred Tradition is equal to Holy Scripture.
  • Restrict, control, and limit the translations of Holy Scripture 
  • The authority of the position of Pope
  • Papal simony and nepotism
  • Church usury
  • Pay off sins by giving to the church (selling indulgences)
  • Worship of Mary
  • Intersession of and devotion to saints
  • Prayer to the dead
  • Dependence on Works with grace (Semi-Pelagianism)
The church was using their power to suppress the minds of the people, control what was being taught, support the dependence on a works based faith, promote idolatry of saints and relics, and make a lot of money.  It was only a matter of time before Christ corrects and disciplines his Church.

Basic History of The Reformation

In 1054AD, the eastern churches broke fellowship with the western churches.  The schism was growing before the 11th century over the western Roman Pope's claim of universal authority, over the understanding of The Holy Spirit, and the practice of communion. The Western (Latin) church rejected the 692AD Quinisext Council (Greek) church decisions in which they rejected many western customs as unorthodox.  From there they continued to grow apart until it was made official in 1045AD.

Between 1378–1416AD, the Western Roman catholic church continued its decline and corruption.  John Wycliffe spoke out against the privileged status of the clergy, veneration of Saints, the Sacraments, the position of the Pope, and advocated for the translation of the Bible into the local tongue. In 1384AD he completed his own translation of the bible in common language.  He died in 1384AD.

The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic in 1415AD, and banned his writings.  Also in 1415AD the western church condemned Jan Hus for similar objections to the western church teachings and had him burned alive along with his writings.  In 1428AD the western church had Wycliffe's remains pulled from the grave and burned. These violent brutal actions sparked what is known as the Hussite War that lasted till 1438AD where followers of Hus actively resisted the sanctions of the Roman catholic church.

As the western church continued to develop other forms for corruption; Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses statement against the church corruption in 1517AD.  Martin taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin.  He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God.  A year later, in 1518AD, Huldrych Zwingli wrote his critique of the corruptions in the church called the 67 Confessions.  He did not read or have any connection to Martin Luther, yet wrote a document that had a lot in common prior to 1520AD.  In 1521AD Martin Luther was excommunicated by the western church. In 1529AD, Martin and Huldrych met to discuss their issues, find unity, and reform the western church from within but disagreed on the essence of communion.  In 1530AD William Tyndale spoke against King Henry V's divorce after completing a New Testament translation in 1525AD.  Martin Luther translated the bible into German in 1534AD.  In 1536 William Tyndale was executed for heresy and unlicensed possession of Scripture in English.  

Around the same time, John Calvin also began teaching the reformers (Luther and Zwingli) corrections of the corrupted church and published his writing called The Institutes of The Christian Religion in 1536AD.  John Knox became a priest in 1540AD in the Church of England and traveled back and forth from Geneva and England where he met John Calvin.  Martin Luther died in 1546AD.  John Calvin sought to unify the reformed church and collaborated with other reformed church leaders; they wrote the Consensus Tigurinus in 1551AD; he also reached out to England and the Archbishop of Canterbury in attempts to unify the church as a whole.  In 1559AD John Calvin established the Geneva academy where the teachings of the reformers were unofficially centralized while John Knox continued the reformation in England and Scotland.  John Calvin died in 1564AD and John Knox died in 1572AD.

Right before John Knox died, the Roman catholic church launched is counter offensive in an attempt to suppress the reformers teachings.  The Council of Trent of 1563AD established the Roman Catholic church reconversion strategy and in the process more defined and separated itself from the ideals of the reformers.  The Roman Inquisition was established and reformers were hunted and tried before a Roman Catholic tribunal.   The same tribunal that condemned Copernicus and Galileo's theories of the solar system in 1616AD.  The Puritan Movement later followed in the 16th and 17th century and was a continuation of reformation ideals.

As the reformers writings and ideals spread which caused a lot of conflict within the Roman Catholic Church and each nation that it influenced.  The Peace of Westphalia of 1648AD essential concluded the reformation and empowered reformed churches to conduct themselves more freely.

The corrupted ideals that defined the western church could not contain the leading of The Holy Spirit in the spread of Reformed Theology.  By the end of the 16th Century, The Roman Catholic Church became a separate entity; while the reformed churches sought to bring the universal church back to focus on Scripture alone, believe salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory alone.

Why the Rejection of Reformed Theology?

At the core of the theology, it touches on 3 fundamental areas.  (1)God is supremely God, (2)Man is sinful, (3) and only Jesus Christ can save.  Thus it brings all the glory to God and takes away any glory man tries to take for themselves.  It confronts self-righteousness head on and declares God is sovereign over all his creation, including man. It makes God, his work, word, and glory, the absolute focal point.  This is why the Roman Catholic Church and others reject it.  In some humanistic ways, they want to retain and control some sort of glory in man.  They want to believe in some way their works, words, traditions, efforts, status, and materialistic value has overpowering and manipulative influence over God's sovereign will.  Ultimately they want to claim some kind of glory for themselves. Reformed Theology takes all that away and puts all the focus on God.

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