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Michael Bennett | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Oct 18 2009 5:01 PM

Can anybody give me a good definition contrasting the two? With some major differences in worship, Bible teaching, spiritual gifts, etc?

I'm having a hard time deciphering the two.. 

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Rich DeRuiter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 18 2009 5:37 PM

As one who grew up in the Reformed Faith, I don't see the differences as primarily theological. Evangelicalism is a primarily American movement that puts proclaiming the Gospel in order to reach the lost (with an understanding of conversion as a personal commitment to Jesus resulting in being born again) at the top of the priority list. Evangelicals can be Calvinists or Arminians, and can be found among cessationist Baptists to flaming Pentecostals. At least I've heard folks from all those stripes refer to themselves as Evangelicals.

Some from my denomination (Christian Reformed Church) consider themselves Evangelicals, even though we are an established denomination with clear historical ties to the Reformation in the Netherlands. Others would be appalled by the association.

As a movement Evangelicalism grows out of American Fundamentalism, and is a response to a perceived (at least) spiritual malaise and lack of evangelistic fervor of many so-called 'main-line' churches.

In other words, the differences aren't so much theological as practical. And trying to define Evangelicalism is very difficult beyond some of the broad brush strokes I've given it here. Maybe someone else can do better.

 Help links: WIKI;  Logos 6 FAQ. (Phil. 2:14, NIV)

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 18 2009 6:30 PM

Reformed = someone who follows Reformation teaching, particularly Calvin (the key theologian of the Reformation) with his emphasis on God's sovereignty.

Evangelical = someone who emphasises the (entire) Bible as the Word of God and (only) authority for Christian doctrine and practice, in contrast to liberal theologicans (so after the time of the Enlightenment.)

A quick summary:

a) "What are the unique features of Reformed Christianity? ... Calvin’s gave the assurance of the impregnability of God’s purpose."
Source:
      Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed., 257 (Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub., 1995).

b) "The Age of Reason saw a dramatic spiritual renewal in Western Christianity called the Evangelical Awakening."
Same resource, page 331.


Shelly is not expensive, and very readable:  http://www.logos.com/ebooks/details/CHPLLANG
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Fred Carver | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 18 2009 7:21 PM

Richard - If I may, I'd like to add a little more perspective to one comment.

This is your comment. - "As a movement Evangelicalism grows out of American Fundamentalism, and is a response to a perceived (at least) spiritual malaise and lack of evangelistic fervor of many so-called 'main-line' churches."

My perspective - Evangelicalism also wanted to distance itself somewhat from fundamentalism.

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Bill Anderson | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 18 2009 7:21 PM

From my seminary (WTS California) notes, as taught by John Frame:

1. The reformed faith is evangelical--it holds that God is a person; that man was made in the image of God and wilfully disobeyed God's command and became worthy of death; that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, was born of a virgin, worked miracles, fulfilled prophecy, literally and physically suffered and died for our sin, was raised physically from the dead and will come again (literally and physically) to judge the world and to gather his people; that salvation from sin comes to us by receiving the free gift in Christ by faith in Christ, and not from our good works; that Scripture is the inerrant word of God; and that prayer is not mere meditation but a genuine conversation with our creator and redeemer.

2. All reformed are evangelical, but not all evangelicals are reformed. That is, there are some teachings that the reformed faith holds that evangelicalism does not hold (see below).

3. The reformed faith is predestinarian: (1) Man is totally depraved and cannot do anything really good, that is capable of pleasing God. In his fallen state, man has no goodness in thought, word or deed and thus is incapable of contributing anything to his salvation. (2) God unconditionally elects (chooses) people for salvation, but he doesn't choose them because of any goodness in them or even because he foresees that they will one day believe. Rather, he elects out of totally unmerited favor or grace. (3) The atonement is efficacious, that is, it accomplishes its purpose. When Christ dies for someone, that person is saved. Not everyone is saved, and so Christ did not die for everyone. Christ's atonement does not open up the mere possibility that man will be saved. Admittedly, this is undoubtedly the single most controversial point of the reformed faith. (4) God's grace cannot be resisted by the creature; it will surely accomplish its purpose in those whom God has elected. (5) If you are born again by the Spirit of God, justified, and adopted into God's family, you cannot lose your salvation. God will keep you.

4. The reformed faith holds to the comprehensiveness of God's covenant lordship. The relationship between God and man, both OT and NT, is a covenant in which God is the Lord and we are his people.

Note: Obviously, there is more to be said about all of this. I share this not to be controversial; I intended  to provide Michael with an answer to his question as helpfully as I could.

Humbly bowed before the cross,

Bill

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 18 2009 8:40 PM

In my limited experience, I would disagree with the statement that all Reformed are Evangelicals. There are ethnic groups that are historically either Reformed or Lutheran and when the association is based on ethnicity, often (but not always) it is not Evangelical or a mixed bag. I have been in a church that transitioned from independent Evangelical to Reformed and I can assure you that there was a big difference in terms of Evangelical values. This was in France though and might differ from the situation in other countries.

Still even in North America I noticed these common features: a big difference between Reformed churches (those with a big "R") and many other churches in the Evangelical world is their ecclesiology. For instance, their understanding of baptismal practices involves a covenant ecclesiology that has affinities with Roman Catholicism and Lutherans but is quite different from say, Baptists.

As seems to be the case with large historical European protestant groups, tradition and liturgy is much more important than it is for later and originally smaller movements. For instance, they would be more familiar with and conceptually comfortable with the idea of sacraments as opposed to ordinances.

Additionally, the ecclesiology and traditions is also reflected in their polity including their interchurch relationships. Synods would call more on historical theology than perhaps would some other groups among the Evangelical world. Then of course, by definition, their theology reflects the emphases of Jean Calvin including a very strong predestinarian emphasis and very classic historical Protestant soteriology.

The European heritage means also that European modes of expression and thinking are more prevalent in Reformed writings than they would be in non-European groups. Theology is much more abstract and not as concrete as North American expression and theology can be. This means that at times one may walk away from reading an article and wonder really what difference this all makes whereas the opposite extreme found on our side (North American) is pragmatic theology that can be lacking in depth (again with many exceptions on both sides).

But then of course, nowadays, there are bound to be many exceptions and strange mixes, like this Reformed Charismatic church I paid a visit once. It was an understandable, but somewhat odd and unexpected mix.

Blessings,

Francis

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 19 2009 2:29 AM

Michael Bennett:
Can anybody give me a good definition contrasting the two?

As you can tell from my posts of PBB's, I have been grappling with the credal statements that represent both traditions. I have come to the inclusion that many apparently "simple" theological terms have definitions that resemble "it means what I say it means" - with every "i" taking their own position. Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but I find the responses on this thread fascinating.

You might be interested in a white paper "America's Definition: What is an Evangelical?" http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/0908_ERWhitePaper.pdf

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Randle Bond | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 19 2009 6:21 AM

There are some interesting posts related to defining evangelical just posted here

http://firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/

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JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 19 2009 4:43 PM

Michael Bennett:

Can anybody give me a good definition contrasting the two? I'm having a hard time deciphering the two.. 

Michael,

Your question is good but it is very difficult in a sense because there are so many different flavors and definitions on the continuum.  We can speak of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism,Amyraldianism (aka Hypotheical Universalism), Weslyanism, Arminianism, 2-3-4 point Calvinism, Calvinism, "hyper" calvinism (often just used as a perjorative), and so forth.  And just to confuse everything even further, there are those who hold to an Evangelical Theology who, if they truly understood the position, would probably identify more with the Reformed side (and vice versa). 

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the sine qua non which distinguishes the two sides is this:

A Reformed Theologian would say that life (or regeneration, or the new birth) MUST precede faith whereas an Evangelical Theologian would say that faith MUST precede life.

Understand that, and armed with a good book on the History of Theology, and you are on your way to understanding the distinctions between the two.

 

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

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Michael Bennett | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 19 2009 4:46 PM

Hey thank you so much! Everything you all posted really helped me out :)

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Jeff Beard | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2009 3:26 AM

JRS,

I think that you put it in a nutshell, thanks.  At the heart of reformed theology is a God who initiates, or causes, all and man is the benefactor in spite of who and what he is (which is a whole other subject).  When trying to explain the difference in my theology to friends from my past circles I put it simply:  God is sovereign and man is not, but I admit a bit too simplistic.

Here is one quote from B.B. Warfield that sums up a great deal of this subject for me personally. Although he is referring to Calvinists, I see it describing the heart of reformed theo as a whole.

“The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner. And on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.”

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Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2009 4:59 AM

jeff beard:
“The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner. And on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.”

This quote would apply to others who don't agree with Calvinism or reformed theology as well.  I know a great many dispensationalists and a great many who would not put themselves in either a calvinist nor arminian camp who would heartily agree with the tenets of this statement.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2009 8:47 AM

JRS:

A Reformed Theologian would say that life (or regeneration, or the new birth) MUST precede faith whereas an Evangelical Theologian would say that faith MUST precede life.

Understand that, and armed with a good book on the History of Theology, and you are on your way to understanding the distinctions between the two.

Brilliantly succinct. It can't be stated any better.

Now the problem I wrestle with is not being unable to distinguish between the two but in finding my footing. I've read many good books but none answer everything. Even the greatest theologians leave questions unanswered. It reminds me of Roland Bainton's biography of Luther, "Here I Stand" -- Maybe 400 years from now somebody will write my bio and explain where my feet rested in this landscape. Confused

 

 

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Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2009 9:20 AM

Matthew

Your reply was also very well put.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  What came first, faith or life?  Many on this forum probably have a ready answer.  I am thankful for the privilege of owning Libronix to consult many on this question, as well as the Word of God.  And we seem to have some fairly good responses to the difference between the two movements.

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Wilson Hines | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2009 7:09 PM

Thanks for asking this question.  I spend allot of time in South to Mid Michigan and if there is 10 Reformed Churches, there are 1,000.  I was wondering what they believed.  

Wilson Hines

Posts 1
Jeff Beard | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2009 7:20 AM

Mark,

Yes, I agree, "reformed" does not have a corner on reverence and humility. Thanks for clarifying, I must be more careful.  Perhaps due to my previous path of evangelicalism, and what I currently find practiced in local churches, Warfield's words draw a stark difference between the more common movement in the American church and the historical theology and orthopraxy of the reformation. My hope is that Warfield's description would be received and deeply applied, more than with mere verbal and skin deep acknowledgement in the evangelical faith. It has/is a simple reminder for me of proper theology and anthropology in a nutshell.

btw:  a worship meeting of 50 local Baptist churches that I attended last night included a half dozen clowns, with one of them jumping out of a cake down in front of the stage. I was invited to give a ministry presentation between the “worship” songs and …the clowns.  Back to Warfield’s words.  

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2009 9:19 AM

jeff beard:

btw:  a worship meeting of 50 local Baptist churches that I attended last night included a half dozen clowns, with one of them jumping out of a cake down in front of the stage. I was invited to give a ministry presentation between the “worship” songs and …the clowns.  Back to Warfield’s words.  

Jeff,  I am sorry to say "I feel your pain," and raise it 10x. 

Clowns, time travel with Jesus, Bible Safari, Noah's Zoo, youth ministries "that Rock"...........The 1970s church kids have aged (-not matured) and now require bistros in Bible school, overhead video projections, rock bands in worship service,  & Christian singles dating services. Ours is a " ( insert name of favorite video console here ) " generation.  Francis Schaeffer warned of this in "The Great Evangelical Disaster" available on Logos here:

http://www.logos.com/ebooks/details/cwfs  . 

The loss of reverence for God and loss of humility for our miserable estate is across all of Christianity. We need to pray for revival instead of clowns in cakes. (I am also a Baptist but see this everywhere in American Christianity.)

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tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2009 10:29 AM

Allen Browne:
Calvin (the key theologian of the Reformation)

 

Allen,

While I agree that Calvin was a major key theologian of the reformation, I would not call him the key theologian of the reformation.  Don't forget the person who started it all Martin Luther, and we cannot forget the others like Zwingli, Knox, Owen, Melanchthon, and Pascal.  While these other theologians might not be as well known, they too had a huge impact of the reformation.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2009 2:27 PM

MJ. Smith:

I have come to the inclusion that many apparently "simple" theological terms have definitions that resemble "it means what I say it means" - with every "i" taking their own position. Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but I find the responses on this thread fascinating.

You might be interested in a white paper "America's Definition: What is an Evangelical?" http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/0908_ERWhitePaper.pdf

So true an observation!  I think everybody should read that white paper you referenced. (Thank you, MJ for sharing it.)  Here is a teaser to convince everybody it is time well spent in reading it:

The graph of How Americans Define "Evangelical" shows only 1%  define the term as "They follow Christ"  --   sad statistic.

Billy Graham,  "I think there are evangelicals in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox churches."

Rich Cizik on "evangelicals"-
1) Bible is authoritative, infallible, inerrant
2) born-again experience, conversion
3) shares this message, witnessing                ----Tell me, do reformed churches not believe these three points??

I have a missionary friend of the reformed faith who does door-to-door witnessing, street preaching and lifestyle evangelism. He seems to be much more evangelical than many of my fundamentalist, "evangelical", non-reformed friends.

 

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Todd Phillips | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2009 2:35 PM

Matthew C Jones:
I have a missionary friend of the reformed faith who does door-to-door witnessing, street preaching and lifestyle evangelism. He seems to be much more evangelical than many of my fundamentalist, "evangelical", non-reformed friends.

The word Evangelical has lost all meaning.  What good is a word if you have to define it every time you use it because your definition isn't the same as the next guys definition?

The word is often defined in contrast to something else

Evangelical (justified by faith alone) vs Roman Catholic

Evangelical (cooperation) vs Fundamentalist (separation)

Evangelical (conservative) vs Liberal

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