Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Am I Reformed?
So, I signed on for this class "Reformed and Lutheran Confessional Theology in the Sixteenth Century" - because my friend Raymond (center in the pic) pretty much went into ecstasy every time he talked about the course (after only 1 day) and because at the time, there were only 13 people in the class. I thought, what better way to get a class with one of Princeton's finest Prof's!
Well after 2 hours today, and just having finished the readings The Theology of the Reformed Confessions (Barth) in particular, I'm having questions again. A little background/reminder might help here. Although my great-grandfather was an Anglican Minister and my grandfather a native of Scotland (and therefore Presbyterian) my mom growing up between the 2 churches, I was raised in the Free Methodist Church. I went to a Free Methodist College. I attended some Pentecostal churches here and there with friends (and for nearly 2 years in college) but I never really had any connection to those great mainline denominations of North America. When Bridgette & I married, we moved to L.A. and ended up hooking up at a Presbyterian Church (USA) and after a couple years became members and that's where I'm currently seeking ordination through.
So, my history in the Presbyterian Church is short, and "Reformed" theology about the same. But of course, "Reformed" is this huge buzzword throughout the PCUSA, and even after 4 years in a church, I really had no clue what it meant. So now, after 1+ year at Princeton - a supposed Presbyterian seminary, I'm only now beginning to tip the edge of the iceberg that is "Reformed" theology. And as much as I thought I'd come to grips with those elements of the theology that I wasn't sure about... the more that I learn, the more that I find myself needing to continue the wrestling.
My greatest comfort when signing on with the PCUSA was the idea that "God alone is Lord of the conscience" which really could mean that you can't be held to much theologically, right? I would never want to take it that far, but it's like having your big brother in the ring with you, just waiting in your corner in case you get into trouble. But as I'm beginning to look at the Confessions that were instrumental in the thread of "Reformed" theology, I'm reminded that it's not that easy. Barth in the book that I mentioned, pretty much calls out all of us Westerners (especially North American) who have ditched these Confessions and made our own, pretending as if they hadn't existed and that they are not seminal in our understanding of God, the Scriptures, Faith, etc. I don't want to be ahistorical in my faith. But I also want to be honest and authentic with what I proclaim and what I confess.
In the picture above, besides Raymond is another friend Wes, who did grow up Presbyterian. Raymond did not, but you'd never know it for all he knows about the denomination (he could've taught our summer Polity class). And it's standing beside guys like this that I have to continually reevaluate myself. They are good men, believers, honestly seeking to proclaim Christ and affirming of their Reformed roots, whereas I, still a novice in these roots, tread lightly, trying to ascertain whether I belong. If it only required a beard, I think I'd be ok...