Church Life | Editorial | Reformed

Reformed gifts for today

Our tradition engages the complexity of God's creation. It doesn't oversimplify or walk away.

Public discourse in North America is especially turbulent. I often want to call “time out.” The responses to Jim Joosse’s recent article on human rights pushed me to dive in with this call for our reflection.

The topic of human sexuality is only the most recent “issue” in a long list of important questions. It won’t be the last. I’m concerned about how we engage these questions. So far, most of what I’ve observed is that we’re resorting to a simplistic “agree or disagree” framework for this discussion.

Allow me to speak personally for a moment. I embraced the Reformed world and life view 25 years ago because of the enormous gifts within this tradition. Through the 1960s to the 1990s, the Reformed tradition made significant contributions to important public conversations about the common good because of our commitment to the mind, to all of God’s creation, and to a posture of hopeful humility.

Being Reformed means rejecting anti-intellectualism. We have pursued education at the highest levels and as broadly as possible because we recognize the biblical call to worship the Lord with our minds. We embrace a spirituality of learning that seeks to bring the world of ideas under the lordship of Christ.

To be Reformed also means a robust embrace of God’s very good – and very diverse – creation. We do not construct false dilemmas: between the material or the spiritual, the eternal or the temporal, creation or redemption. We are not dualistic or otherworldly but deeply and joyfully holistic, even earthy. We are a community, when presented with tough realities, that does not try to hide behind “spirituality” or over-simplification.

God’s symphony of grace

We are hopefully humble because we are secure in God’s covenantal embrace. We know God’s enduring love which enables us to face the world’s complexity and challenges with hope, humbly knowing that we, though forgiven, are also part of the problem. We know that sin is only a minor note in the major key of God’s symphony of grace. In the hardest of times, we stake our lives on our assurance that everything good in creation and in the life of the mind is the result of God’s loving initiative. We live in hope that God will faithfully bring all things to his kingdom of shalom. This has given us a hopeful and humble posture in our Father’s world, even when the darkness has been overwhelming.

We are the Christians, equipped with God’s gifts, who now must engage a question like human sexuality without resorting to cliches, fear or scapegoating. We have a history as Reformed Christians that predisposes us to recognize that there are numerous reasons why this topic of human sexuality is before us today. This isn’t fundamentally about individual choices for sin or holiness. Life in North America (including our ways of being church) over the last 50 years produces this question. We can’t avoid it without withdrawing from the world we live in.

We are primarily facing, therefore, an opportunity. It is time for us to use our gifts again: to graciously bring our academic rigor to bear on the complexity of God’s creation with a humble confidence in God’s faithfulness. God is with us – even as we wade through the many factors (scientific, political, legal, generational, etc.) distorting all of life today. To simply “agree” or “disagree” is an injustice to the importance of this question. It is also a lack of love for the countless people for whom this is precisely not an “issue,” it’s their lives.

  • Mike is the Christian Reformed campus minister at Western University in London, Ont., where he is also a professor of theology and culture. He is the author of Engaging the World with Abraham Kuyper (2019). Mike adapted this reflection, published by Kuyper December 13, 1899, for our cultural context.

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