The Joy of Being Reformed

Anthony Selvaggio has a nice essay at Ref21 on the struggle of confessional Reformed folk to experience a particular fruit of the Spirit. Like Anthony, I too am an immigrant to the Reformed world and am sometimes surprised at how much some Reformed folk take for granted. That’s not to say there aren’t reasons for Reformed folk to be joyful. There are and I detailed several of them in chapter 6 of Recovering the Reformed Confession. Here’s a talk on this theme from last Sept.

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  1. Now this is an interesting and timely topic, indeed, because it’s usually always the main topic of conversation whenever my wife and I visit the little OPC congregation down the road. She thinks they express little joy in their worship – she was particularly disdainful of their lack of expression when we attended Easter services their earlier this year, a time when she feels that joyful worship should be paramount. But then she comes from an evangelical background; I come from Lutheran – and I thought things were just fine.

    In addition to the reasons for perceived “joylessness” mentioned by the blog author over at Ref21, I would add a few more. First of all, many members of Reformed congregations come from a Dutch background. Whether they want to admit it or not, those from the Netherlands are not particularly exuberant people, period – at least not the ones I’ve known and worked with over the years. And this characteristic is not limited to them by any means – the Ukranians and other Eastern Europeans are much the same. So it’s a cultural thing to some extent.

    Secondly, building upon what has already been said, many of these “immigrants” from evangelical sources may have been so beaten over the head with the neo-Pentecostal emphasis on “worship in the Spirit” that they may feel the need to express just the opposite in their Reformed churches – that is, a more reverent and reserved approach. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

    But if individual elders and pastors want to encourage a more j0yful attitude on the part of their parishioners, they need to do so slowly and carefully under the risk that they, too, could gradually warp into a neo-Pentecostal congregation. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter.

  2. Dr. Scott,

    Thank you for the post, it was an excellent article. As one in the “immigration” stage, I appreciated his mention of the bruises received along the way. My thought was, judging from my own experience, that often one of the greatest sins in this transition is resentment. When one realizes the continuity and beautiful truth of, say, covenant theology as opposed to dispensationalism, it is hard not to feel like you’ve been missing out or misled. I think this is something those of us moving to confessionalism have to recognize as a potential problem.

    I do have a question for you that is loosely related: I know that the Edwardsian/Piperian kind of joy is defined as a QIRE by you, but I was wondering if you have written or know of a place where their position is dealt with specifically? This is a popular approach in my circles, but I’m not sold yet as to it’s merits…


  3. I think the whole thesis gets it backwards, having been in both “camps”. I won’t elaborate since I gotta watch Clark’s Huskers in the Holiday Bowl.

  4. It is funny that I ran across this post because I was just meditating on the same concept of joy in the life of those of us who are reformed. This is good food for thought.

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