Monday, November 05, 2007

Representin' for the Reformation

I've been hanging out over at The Black Church Page over the last week. Yeah, I remember what I said, but I figured I'm preaching to the choir over here. So, as I expected, I found some true opposition over there.

I opened a forum on Reformed Theology and as usual it got bogged down into a debate over election/predestination. Nonetheless, I do believe I did win a friend and found another reformed ally. If you would care to review the forum here's a link for you . . .

The Black Church Page Forum on Reformed Theology

I thought I'd just leave you with my semi-closing statement (the forum is still open if you would like to weigh in) from the forum and let you tell me what you think.

"As is far too often the case, this discussion which was to deal with the whole of Reformed Theology, has bogged down to a debate over 'election'.

As my opening quote indicates RT is about much more than just this hot-button issue. The central tenet of RT is not election, but the supremacy and sovereignty of God in ALL things. It also focuses on man's faithful worship of this triune, omnipotent and incomprehensible God in "spirit and in truth". As Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN says: "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him".

How does RT compare with much of the church ( yea, even the "black" church) today. Here is what I have observed . . .

Modern Church: Increasing emphasis on personal health, wealth and materialism.
Reformed Theology: Emphasis on personal holiness and submission to God's sovereignty

Modern Church: Triumphalism/claiming earthly territory
Reformed Theology: Rejoicing in suffering which produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope (Romans 5:3-5a)

Modern Church: Declining emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel
Reformed Theology: Insistence on the preaching of the Gospel persistently.

Modern Church: Increasing espousal of heresies ( deification of man, the denial of the deity of Christ, etc.) False prophecy
Reformed Theology: Emphasis of the Five Solas: Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) Sola Fide (by Faith alone) Sola Gratia (by Grace alone) Sola Christus (Christ Alone) all for Sola Deo Gloria ( the glory of God alone).

Modern Church: Increasing "new" revelation
Reformed Theology: Contending "for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" Jude 3. Agreeing with the Apostle Paul that " even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" Galatians 1:8. There is no "new" revelation.

Modern Church: Proliferation of female "pastors", "elders", "bishops", and even "apostles" .
Reformed Theology: Honors biblical standard for leadership in the church.

Modern Church: Lack of accountability for pastors/maverick preachers
Reformed Theology: High accountability through governing bodies.

Modern Church: Abandonment of confessionalism resulting in biblical illiteracy and doctrinal ignorance.
Reformed Theology: Strong, well established confessional history and doctrinal instruction.

Modern Church: Compromise with false religions (muslims particularly)
Reformed Theology: Firm denunciation of false religions.

Modern Church: Celebrity status of many Pastors.
Reformed Theology: Pastors castigated for uncompromising stance on biblical truth.

Modern Church: The church as a multinational corporation/ the pastor as CEO.
Reformed Theology: the church as the "house of prayer"/ the pastor as faithful servant and under-shepherd.

That's the short list of what I have witnessed.

I submit to you that a return to the foundational tenets of the historic Christian faith is what is desperately needed today. We have fallen from being the conscience of the nation to being the entertainment of the nation. As a pilot by profession, I travel widely and I frequently hear the world's impression of the church. We are more known for our conflicts, wife-beatings and world-likeness than for our flat-footed uncompromised preaching of Christ and Him crucified.

I believe this can only be because we have abandoned the principles we fought and died for during the Protestant Reformation. We have effectively been cut off from that history ( one of satan's most devious tricks). The average Christian can tell you nothing beyond the history of his own church (if that). What we fail to realize is that all our denominations are rooted in the Reformation. The great reformer,
Martin Luther, understood that when he translated the Scripture into the vulgar (common) languages he was opening a hornet's nest(denominationalism). But He fought for our right to be able to read God's word ourselves in our native tongues. But as is our way, we have turned this to a means toward our ends rather than God's ends.

As blacks we are still so wrapped up in our plight that we believe we hold the patent on suffering. We discount the persecution and suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters have faced long before our enslaved ancestors ever lived. They were fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum, disemboweled and broiled alive in the "iron chair". Their bodies were tarred, set aflame and used as human torches to light the emperor's courtyard. We dismiss the courageous stands of great men like Athanasius, Polycarp, Augustine, Wycliffe and Hus. God used these men to ensure that we'd have this faith that has sustained us through so much suffering.

As proud as we are of our black heritage, how many of us are familiar with Lemuel Haynes, a Calvinist black minister in the 18th century who argued vigorously against the slave trade. Haynes along with other 18th century black authors (Jupiter Hammon, James Albert Ukasaw Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano) "found in calvinsm a tradition of exegesis that could be leveled against the slave trade and slavery". John Saillant, biographer of Haynes, states "early black calvinism was vigorously anti slavery" and Lemuel Haynes was its most prolific voice and writer.

Heart and Mind

Reformed Theology is both experiential and intellectual. It realizes no dichotomy between heart and mind. It's not puffing up the mind (even if fallible people do fall into that trap) leading to a cold, indifferent religion. It's about a mind nourished in the truth of the triune God, who He is and His unimaginable splendor, glory and holiness. All leading to an outpouring, from the heart, of unyielding worship, trust, obedience and love of Him who is infinite. RT recognizes that emotion is a good thing; but it must bow its knees to the truth. Truth is obtained through the mind.

When we enter into the presence of God in our churches on Sunday morning, we are not supposed to check our brains nor our hearts at the front door. I am confident that if any of you were to perform an objective and honest investigation of Reformed Theology, you will find a profound and revolutionary deepening of your walk with Jesus Christ.

If you are willing to accept my challenge, I have a suggested list of books (links) that will be indispensable in conducting your study . . .

History: Eusebius, "The Chuch History"

Not necessarily a RT book, but essential for understanding our roots.


1) "Knowing God" J. I. Packer

2) "Back to Basics" Douglas J. Wilson

3) "Grace Unknown" R. C. Sproul

4) "When Grace Comes Home" Terry Johnson

5) "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" John Owen
Tough read. Not for the squeamish!

6) "The Holiness of God" R. C. Sproul

7) "Desiring God" John Piper

"Chosen by God" R. C. Sproul

9) "The Doctrines of Grace" James Montgomery Boice

10) "On Being Black and Reformed" Anthony Carter

11) "Holiness" J. C. Ryle

12) "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" R. C. Sproul

13) "The Sovereignty of God" Arthur W. Pink

Special Bonus: Reformed websites/blogs (links):


In Submission to Sovereignty - My personal blog.

Ligonier Ministries

Non Nobis Domine (Not Unto Us, O Lord)

Blaque Tulip

Council of Reforming Churches"

Viva la Reformation!!!

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!


Cdadvance2 said...

Good afternoon, Mr. Keith. My name is Chris. I am a 21 year old chemical engineering major in Mississippi. I have done much research (Scripture searching) and learned a lot about much of the apostasy in the church today. One of your remarks is so true, about (I am paraphrasing), abandoning confessionalism which produces biblical illiteracy and doctrinal ignorance. That's in the majority where I am from. I was raised in COGIC, but I reject most of their tenets due to a more thorough understanding of Scripture. Again, I was basically the epitome of that remark about illiteracy and ignorance surely was true of me a little over a year ago. Thanks to God for showing me that about myself. I've been reading your blog for several months (learned about it from Pulpit Pimps; thinking about starting a blog myself). I have been learning a lot of church history, particularly the Reformation, and one thing that I have been wondering about was some Black Reformers in history and I want to thank you for those names you listed. I'll definitely comment some more later, just wanted to introduce myself. Oh yeah, I like the acronym!

Cdadvance2 said...

Hey, what are the names of some of their books? Thanks! Oh, my email address is!

Keith L. Tolbert said...

Hi Chris!

Thanks so much for reading my blog and for your comments. I'm glad to hear of your commitment to study God's word and Be Like The Bereans!

The work I quoted in the blog was,
"Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Times of Lemuel Haynes" by John Saillant. I'm not sure if many of the preachers I mention still have any writings available; but you may want to check out "The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors"
by Thabiti M. Anyabwile.

He also has a blog that's very good ( a new book that I am about to read,
"The Decline of African-American Theology". Do take a look at his blog and get the books.

I truly believe that there is a growing wave of interest in Reformed theology and reformed teaching. Who knows you may be the one who reforms COGIC!