Monday, April 14, 2014

Introducing the Reformed Faith

Donald K. McKim, Introducing the Reformed Faith: Biblical Revelation, Christian Tradition, Contemporary Significance. Westminster JOhn Knox Press, 2001. 261 pages. ISBN 0-664-25644-9

Donald K. McKIm is Editor of Academic and Reference Books with WEstminster John Knox Press. He has edited and written many books including Calvin's Institutes: Abridged Edition, The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology and many more. Introducing the Reformed Faith is a beginner's guide to sixteen theological doctrines: Confessing our Faith, The Scripture, Trinity, Creation, Providence, Humanity, Sin, The Person of Christ, Work of Christ, Holy Spirit, Salvation, Church, Baptism, Lord's Supper, Christian Life, and Reign of God. The purpose of this book is to "suggest ways in which a particular theological understanding--the Reformed faith--has approached a number of important Christian doctrines."

The book is divided into nineteen chapters. Besides having a chapter for each of the sixteen doctrines discussed in the book, there are chapters on "Distinctive Emphasis of the Reformed Faith," common questions about the Reformed faith, and "A Catechism of Christian Faith and Life." Each chapter has a similar organization: the Biblical foundation for the doctrine, the doctrine in Christian Tradition, and Reformed emphases, and contemporary significance of the doctrine. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection or discussion.

The author states in the introduction that this book is meant as an introduction to the Reformed faith. In other words, it is not an exhaustive look at these doctrines. McKIm says this book can be studied individually or as a group. The chapters are short enough to be read in one sitting.

One emphasis in the Reformed Faith is confessing the faith. The Reformed faith accepts the early creeds of the creeds of the Christian creeds, for example, the Nicene Creed. It also accepts major creeds of the Reformation period: Heidelberg and Westminster.  McKim says the following about the authority of the confessions: "Confessions of faith have authority. They gain their authority as expressions of Christian beliefs in a certain time and place. These beliefs are appropriate expressions of the biblical message, the claims of Jesus Christ, and what the Spirit is leading the churches to confess" (8). The creeds and confessions are important guides to what the church has believed since its beginning. The Reformed faith is ecumenical because it accepts the teachings of the church before the Reformation. The author states that "the Reformed faith expresses itself in confessions of faith." Confession of faith is not only for believers, but for the world.

In the chapter on some common questions, McKim answers certain questions people ask about the Reformed faith: "Do we have free will?," "Is there salvation outside the church?," "What is TULIP?," and others. On the chapter on the distinctive emphasis of the Reformed faith, McKim shows what the Reformed faith has in common with the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation, and the disct emphasis of the Reformed faith. For example, the Reformed faith accepts the Catholic teachings of the trinity and the incarnation. It accepts the Protestant emphasis on Justification by faith alone and the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Some of its unique emphasis are sovereignty, election, covenant, stewardship, sin, and obedience. I like how he states that part of the "ethos" of the Reformed Tradition is "The Life of the Mind as the Service of God." The Reformed faith teaches both that creation is good, even though fallen; and that the life of the mind is a way to worship God. It also emphasizes the importance of redeeming all of creation. All of life must be seen from a Christian view-point.

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