The language of Reformed theology still bothers me. It indicates something like “oh, theology? We’ve got that covered. It was broken, but we fixed it.” Which obviously isn’t true. It gives the impression that we’re done, that we can rest on our laurels as God-talkers, that we can say accurate things, the the improvements in our language and practice that remain are really window dressing.
I’d much prefer Reforming theology, or Reform theology, because terms like this would indicate that we are still a work-in-progress, that we are still open to challenge and change. Of course, people in general aren’t open to challenge and change. I mean, come on – they’re tiring.
Reformed theology also gives the impression that we have this strong continuity with the past. In some cases, perhaps we do, but I think that the Christianity we practice now would be in many ways alien to the Reformers. For example, we don’t shoot Catholics anymore, generally speaking, and they don’t shoot us. Also, we ordain women. And people of color. We don’t really ever talk about double predestination (except with perhaps a sheepish look and lots of caveats) and we’re not afraid that unbaptized babies will go to hell.
In my experience, the fact that I’m not very Reformed has almost never in any way hindered my relationships and communication with fellow Presbyterians, much less other Christians. I suppose one could bemoan this, saying that it is a sad example of theological illiteracy in the pews. Rather, I like to think that it is just a big hint that maybe what was important to the Reformers five hundred years isn’t exactly what’s important to many of us anymore. Maybe the world really is pretty different. Maybe its true that our social and historical position determines our theological interests and our modes of interpretation.
Maybe we have a lot more Reforming to do.
Finally, to me, Reformed sounds a little arrogant. Again, its talking about a complete work. “Theology? Got it covered.” It takes humility to look at everything with an eye to how you are wrong, how God might be working to change you. It’s also frightening. And, importantly, disarming. If my position isn’t iron-clad, if it isn’t the bulwark I might make it out to be, then it makes it a lot harder for me to stand behind it and lob stones at you. Its hard to lash out from a tenuous position, and maybe if we all agreed that our positions are pretty tenuous, there would be less lashing out.