The Reformed Faith and Christianity
This week I’m spending some time going through R. B. Kuiper’s 1926 book, As To Being Reformed. It’s worthwhile because so little has changed since 1926. Yes, the names have changed, but that’s about it. Many of the concerns that Kuiper expresses would be irrelevant today to much of the CRC or RCA, but they are relevant to the Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches.
Chapter 6 is entitled “Christianity and Calvinism.” Kuiper begins this chapter by noting:
It is often asked: “Is it worthwhile to be a Calvinist? Does it not suffice to be a Christian? If only I make sure to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, do I need to bother about being a follower of John Calvin? Granted that I am an adherent of the Christian religion, is it of any real value that I subscribe to that particular interpretation of it which was sponsored especially by the Genevan reformer? Compared with the fundamental doctrines of orthodox Christianity, are not the five points of Calvinism quite insignificant? (85)
He begins his reply by noting that it is “a matter of stupendous importance” to be specifically Reformed. He appeals extensively to B. B. Warfield’s article on Calvinism in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, where Warfield argues that Calvinism is the most perfectly developed representative of the Christian faith. Kuiper agrees: “Calvinism is the most nearly perfect interpretation of Christianity. In final analysis, Calvinism and Christianity are practically synonymous.” (88)
But why? Kuiper went on to explain that the basic principle of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God, and it is only that doctrine in its purity which can preserve the grace of God found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Arminians of all stripes end up “taking much of the grace out of grace.”
According to Kuiper, Calvinism is not only at the heart of the purest Christianity, it is the purest Christianity. Said he,
Every once in a while one hears it said in Christian Reformed circles that this is no time for insisting on the niceties of Calvinism, that now we should bring all our strength to bear on the maintenance of the fundamentals of Christianity itself. Without questioning the good intentions of those who speak thus, I want to say that this line of talk is superficial, misleading even, and hence dangerous. It is always time to insist on Calvinism of the purest brand. “Obsta principiis!” “Withstand beginnings!” Add water to the wine of Reformed doctrine, and you have begun to weaken your Christianity. For in last instance the fundamentals of Calvinism are also the fundamentals of the Christian religion. (91)
Then he concluded by noting that every Arminian is a Calvinist when he is on his knees.
1) I wonder what Kuiper would have thought of those who take the name “Reformed” today without being consistently and confessionally Reformed in the historic sense.
2) This is a good reminder for Reformed pastors to regularly preach and teach the Canons of Dort to their congregations. I’ve written on that here. The doctrines of grace should never be taken for granted.
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