Settled and Reformed: How Many Points?

Philip, in the combox at Gene Vieth’s blog, reminded me to re-post the link to a terrific essay by Richard Muller on what defines the adjective “Reformed.”

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  1. Kim Riddlebarger has had Dr. Muller’s essay, “How Many Points?”, posted on his web site for a while now and I like to use it as a touchstone for Reformed theology (I’m not Reformed). It is a great work and I’ve gone back to it often when reading through questions and comments on some of these blog sites. His introductory paragraph, in particular, is an outstanding characterization of “American Evangelicalism” – a cafeteria-like picking and choosing of what one wants to believe about what the Bible has to say.

    Also, near the bottom of page 430 (in the original text) he talks about this business of having a “personal relationship” with Jesus, a concept that I’ve always found confusing whenever I get into a discussion with Evangelical folks. Muller equates “personal relationships” as being something akin to sitting down with someone over a cup of coffee and carrying on a discussion, quite unlike our communication with the risen Lord. I agree with his assessment.

    I happen to be Lutheran, but I have a great deal of respect for Reformed theology, especially at the more confessional end of the spectrum. Lutherans, of course, have their own confessions, catechisms, and statements of faith (the latter often being specific to particular synods) and they rely on them as “summaries” of scripture, as benchmarks for their beliefs. My experience has been that Evangelicals, for the most part, do not like those, preferring to use Scripture itself as the foundation of their faith. That’s fine, but it also seems to leave the door open to many different textual interpretations and the end result is often a lack of congregational unity. I see various efforts in the Reformed sectors to try to recapture confessional unity like this, but it appears to be an up hill struggle.

  2. I can understand you deleting my last comment. On another subject, I wish I wasn’t banned from the PuritanBoard so I could defend Meredith Kline in that thread you are currently engaged in. I share your frustration. There are many elements involved when you come across criticisms of MGK. For one (a big one) Theonomists (and now Federal Visionists) really, really, really don’t like him, and so dishonestly and sophistically use his Framework Hypothesis to pretend it represents all his work (usually without even mentioning the FH). I’m not saying that is happening exclusively over there at the PB, but it usually is the spark that starts the flame of criticism. And it carries the day against all the people who, as you note, have never actually read Kline.

    You wrote once that Vos, Berkhof, and Kline (I paraphrase, accurately I hope) represent a trinity of on-the-mark, orthodox classical Covenant – Federal – Theology in the 20th century. I see this as true, and isn’t it interesting that the two greatest practitioners of biblical theology of our era – Vos and Kline – are such able and stout defenders of Reformation doctrine.

    (Another thing that makes certain types not like Kline is the very fact that he IS – with Vos – the great representative of biblical theology and Reformation orthodoxy at the same time. It hamstrings liberal biblical theology practitioners and it makes it rather difficult for them to declare themselves or their colleagues the ‘greats’ of biblical theology of our time. When a Vos and a Kline existed in our era you can’t get away with that.)

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