Narcissus Lives!

Narcissus is a mythological story about a young man who became so fascinated with his own reflection it cost him his life. Narcissism is a psychological disorder that confuses subjective experience for objective reality. In Recovering the Reformed Confession I described the phenomenon whereby confuse their personal views and opinions for the Reformed faith. There is an objective definition of the adjective Reformed. It is that theology, piety, and practice confessed by the Reformed churches. The Remonstrants (Arminians) sought to redefine the Reformed doctrine of salvation and the Synod of Dort, representing the Dutch Reformed Church, other European Reformed churches, and the Church of England all rejected the claims of the Arminians.

After the Remonstrant crisis, the definition of “Reformed,” the Amyraldian crisis presented another challenge. The response by the churches was rapid and less unified. The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675) would come to represent the majority response to the revisions proposed by Amyraut. Nevertheless, in view of the 60+ confessional documents crafted by the churches, including the Three Forms of Unity and Westminster Standards, the strong agreement of the churches was evident for a long period of time.

In recent years, however, the rise of the self-described Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, through the use of the new media, is raising questions again about the definition of the adjective “Reformed.”  This above video is a good example of the tendency to define “Reformed” in one’s own image.

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  1. Dr Clark,
    First, I could not get the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” link to work.

    Second, do you think that those who have criticisms of the Reformed faith have some valid concerns?

    • Curt,

      1. Fixed.

      2. Are we talking about Reformed theology or what the churches confess? These are somewhat different things. The churches confess in public, binding documents an understanding of the teaching, piety, and practice of the faith taught in God’s Word. That understanding is subject to revision, of course, but until it’s shown to be errant, as a minister sworn to uphold and defend that confession I have an obligation to be circumspect. Reformed theologians, writing privately, have made mistakes and are subject to criticism. I’m happy to do that. Typically, however, in my experience, most of those who have offered revisions of “Reformed theology” haven’t been prepared to make those criticisms. Frankly, unless a critic reads Latin, has read the tradition and demonstrated a thorough grasp of the system, I’m not really interested in their criticisms. If I owned a Ferrari, I would not let a shade-tree mechanic make “improvements” to it.

      • Dr Clark,
        Culturally speaking, I think that the valid concerns from Post Modernism are not addressed by the Reformed Traditions and those brought up in Post Modernism, know it. Rather, these concerns are exasperated. One such concern is the abuse of power & authority, which was more than evident in European colonialism with the emphasis on hierarchy and authoritarianism written in the confessions. That the Reformed traditions were written during a time where colonialism hierarchical societies were accepted as the norm contributes to this.

        I think what could help is an open situation where all could criticize the Reformed Traditions in public. I know this is a change and goes against the training of many. I understand that there is a fear of losing what is essential with the past but that has always been a fear.

        Though we have covered some of this territory before, how do we promote sola scriptura when the Reformed Traditions are placed on such a high pedestal and have such an authoritative place in the church?

        Finally, with the emphasis on doctrine and the traditions, some of the young people I know feel that outreach and helping others outside the church is sorely lacking.

        Anyway, thank you for your response. I know that push the envelope for some at times. I don’t do that for the thrill. I unintentionally do that from of the concerns I have

  2. The video’s production values were so brilliant, I found it hard to concentrate on the content.

  3. I am seriously worried as an OPC minister. With this articute scholar, a sleeping giant has now awakened. He’s gentle but ferocious. How will anyone be able to stand and face this formidable challenge, especially when only the Scripture is allowed as the weapon?

  4. Curt,

    Mike Horton has written 4 substantial vols interacting with postmodernism/late modernism. Other authors from a more broadly Reformed perspective have done the same. You’re a little behind the times.

    • Dr Clark,
      Not from what I hear in the pew nor what I read in New Horizons. I do teach for a living, at least for this semester after which I retire.

      • Curt,

        So it’s not enough that Mike h as written four academic volumes interacting with postmodernism but that work must have filtered down to the pews in your congregation or it doesn’t count? Is that the test? Perhaps you’re in the wrong pews. I know of some congregations where his students are mediating that interaction in a popular way to their congregations.

        • Dr Clark,
          The question is not how much Mike H. wrote, the question is what is heard in the pews. If ministers do not share this info with the congregation, you cannot expect the congregation to read everything that comes down the pike especially when they are already spending time with families and their areas of expertise. We know this from activism. When people are as busy as they are, it is sometimes unrealistic to expect them to know U.S. policies in some other part of the world let alone all of the financial schemes that exist in this country let alone to act on it.

          From what I have seen from the various ministers I have heard is this: they do not use the original sources when interacting with subjects outside of the Church’s sphere, they rely on reviews. So when I hear ministers talk about socialism for example, I know when a minister has read original sources or is just relying on someone from the reformed tradition. I have not heard any Reformed minister in my area or among the ones I listen to deal directly the original sources of Socialism, the emerging church, or post modernism. They rely on using someone else’s views and that person is usually an antagonist.

          And if I haven’t heard them from the pulpit, then the kids I know who get frustrated with the Church have not heard them either. It isn’t a reflection on Mike, it is simply describes the state of the supply chain of information.

          As for being in the wrong pew, I let the wife pick the church and there we have a bunch of tradeoffs regarding which church we are in. I let her pick our current church because I started our move out of a PCUSA church because of its theological liberalism. Since I started the move out, I wanted her to have the chance to pick. I don’t want to dictate and not listen. I want her to be able to choose and have a voice.

          Finally, I have my own idea of what I like and dislike about post modernism. But I am more than happy to read what other reformed people have to say. My idea is that I relate to post modernism’s rejection of colonialism and false sense of superiority that those who claim to have the truth possess. But to deny absolute truths to do so can eventually cause the problems and pain they wish to eliminate.

    • Nemesis,

      anonymous/pseudonymous comments aren’t allowed except under certain circumstances (e.g., you live in China or Moscow, ID and commenting on the HB might put your life in danger)

  5. Why is it so many people dislike Reformed theology? From imputation, to Calvinism to the RPW, why is that?

    • Trent,
      IMO, there are some brothers and sisters in Christ who have had American individualism drilled into them so much that the idea of God having such sovereignty is an affront and threat.

      But there are others who disagree with Reformed Theology in terms of the 2nd table of the law. They realize that Calvin wrote during a time when his view of social relations may have been more influenced by the culture of his day than by God’s Word. For example, Calvin believed in a more hierarchical society that what many of today’s Americans believe in

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