Friday, July 18, 2008

This is the acid test of a truly Reformed ministry – that other believers need not be Reformed in order to be respected and included in our hearts.

"What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love ...take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone." Ray Ortlund, Reformed Sociology ht: JT
This is the mentality of the gospel. An attitude of trust toward others. An attitude of generosity and warmth. Ortlund finds himself being read by me, a fellow 'Reformed' blogger, but imagine if we all took on this humble gracious approach to one another. Trusting other Christians instead of suspecting them. Seeking what was best for them. UCCF South West is a partnership of churches through which students reach students - how deeply and desperately we need this kind of warmth for one another. And, Praise God, we often have it! Come with us, we'll do you good.


  1. It sounds good. But I wonder (in an open and serious way) what does this mean for the likes of Gene Robinson and Rob Bell? I am thinking back to your post on Christianity and Liberalism.

    There you wrote:

    - "What we can observe is two different religions. One called Liberalism"

    - "The ministry of the Holy Spirit divides."

    I have trouble reconciling the two posts.

    I would love to hear examples of where this quote from Ortlund is being put into practice. For example it would be good to hear about how this is affecting relationships between UCCF and Chaplains, UCCF and a wider range of Churches.

    I don't read a lot from those who self-identify as Reformed about the wonderful Christians who are amazing & heroic egalitarians or homosexuals.

  2. Hm, just to pick up on your last para, I don't know if in the circles you 'hear from', they're less vocal, but in the circles Dave's mentioned, certainly there are those in UCCF who self-identify as Reformed and egalitarian, and those who have homosexual desires and identify as reformed. Quite apart from that, there are also those who do not self-identify as reformed :)

  3. While sometimes there is need for more clear distinction than is often the case, I'm convinced the can also be warm inclusion more.

    I think the UCCF circle is broader than is often recognised. Commitment to those things in the UCCF doctrinal basis is often read as narrow but to me feels like it opens more doors than it closes, promotes more fellowship than it breaks, and should fuel more generosity than division....

    And yet, let's be honest, sinfully we're all prone to just go for those like us, to go for being safe/narrow. Beautifully, if I really treasure the doctrines I believe I should be secure enough to work broadly (which is Ortlunds point), trust rather than be suspicious, believe the best of others, learn from many...

  4. Dave,

    "I think the UCCF circle is broader than is often recognised. Commitment to those things in the UCCF doctrinal basis is often read as narrow but to me feels like it opens more doors than it closes, promotes more fellowship than it breaks, and should fuel more generosity than division...."

    I am pleased to hear this. Please can you give me some examples as my own experience at University over 20 years ago was quite different. I would love to see progress.

    I would love to hear where UCCF and University chaplains from a variety of denominations/traditions have open doors and fellowship as there are always plenty of rumours to the contrary. I would see both these as fruits of your acid test of truly Reformed ministry.

  5. I guess the thing is conflict always brings a story, but people don't often go around making a fuss about the positive situations. That might be a British quirk.

    I don't think Denominationality stands for much these days anywhere - I want to judge by who a person is and what they're believing rather than the label they're wearing.

    The label thing is why it frustrates me that people still presume UCCF is anti-charismatic just because it probably was (in places) a while back. So often people have presumed my theology without knowing me. Consequently I try not to presume where others are coming from...

    In the SW we have partnership with Anglicans and Methodists, Baptists, Newfrontiers, Apostolic, Pentecostal, Free Churches, ex-Brethren... which encompasses egalatarians and complementarians... (I'm not entirely aware of where all the churches are coming from on this issue but I know of one major student church that is egalatarian, and another that has a female pastor and thus...)
    Charismatic and non-charismatic...etc etc.

    Because UCCF is inherently a church-partnering mission everything is working out through the local church so chaplaincy contact is lesser. That said, I can think of dozens of CUs that have positive relationships with Chaplains.

  6. Don't know if you'll see this, but thanks, Dave! This article was salve to my 'non-Calvinist' soul as a staff worker within an organisation that currently has a largely Calvinist ethos and tone (viz., our beloved UCCF). I do not consider myself Arminian anymore than Calvinist (I'm something of a 'Calminian' I guess - along with the likes of Craig Blomberg), but I do consider myself reformed because I can heartily assent to the five solas of the Reformation. I rejoicingly work with Calvinists and value their orthodox faith and practice extremely highly. Indeed, I tend to find Calvinists are most often my favourite authors and teachers. I'm saddened at times to find that they don't seem to quite as rejoicingly work with non-Calvinists. Glad to know the generosity, love, and trust are sometimes reciprocated.