I’ve told my friends more than once there’s more to being Reformed than just believing in the (in)famous Five Points of Calvinism, i.e. TULIP. That’s a Calvinistic (or more properly, Dortian, i.e. the Synod of Dort) understanding of salvation. The Reformed expression of the whole Christian faith and practice has many more points. There are many more petals on the Reformed flower. So my friends challenged me to come up with a flower acronym.
Behold, the thirteen petals of the Reformed Chrysanthemum!
- Chalcedonian Christology
- Hermeneutical covenantalism
- Regulative principle of worship
- Yahweh’s glory above all is the goal
- Sovereignty of God in all things
- Asymmetrical double-predestination
- Niceno-Constantinopalitan Trinitarianism
- Territorial interconnectedness of churches
- Historical confessionalism
- Ecclesiastical distinctives
- Monergistic regeneration
- Unio Mystica with Christ unto Duplex Gratia
- Munus Triplex of Christ
Chalcedonian Christology: This refers to the orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ. That he consists in two distinct natures or essences (those of God and Man) which are unified in one person or subsistence (that of God the Son). Just as it was defined by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451.
Hermeneutical covenantalism: This refers to the systematic understanding of Scripture according to an overarching historical architecture structured by covenant. God reveals himself and engages with mankind through a series of particular historical covenants. Those covenants are ordered and administered according to two systematic ‘covenants’ that are principles of justification and eternal life. There is a the “covenant of works” or the “covenant of life”, and there is the “covenant of grace”.
Regulative principle of worship: This refers to the rule governing public worship of God. It states that all of the elements of public worship must be all those commanded by God and only that which is commanded. It’s not merely a normative principle that only omits what is prohibited by God. There must be imperative scriptural warrant for what is done in public worship. It’s adding nothing to God’s commands and subtracting nothing from God’s commands.
Yahweh’s glory above all is the goal: This is basically the Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory) of the Protestant Reformation. The Triune God created all things to glorify himself. The Son and Spirit prepare a holy people to worship the Father. The Father and the Spirit prepare a glorious bride for the Son. And the Father and the Son prepare a living temple for the Spirit. All of this is God showing the riches of his glory to vessels of mercy while enduring vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.
Sovereignty of God in all things: This refers to God’s absolute liberty and ability to do whatever he pleases according to his own perfect counsel. God has foreordained and providentially oversees all things to his own glory.
Asymmetrical double-predestination: This refers to the dissimilarity between the two ways in which God appointed the dual eternal destinies of two groups of people out of fallen humanity. From this mass of human sin, he chose to actively intervene (the act of election) and redeem one group of sinners from his condemnation of them for their sin, and he chose to passively refrain from intervening (the act of preterition) on behalf of the other group of sinners, consigning them to his righteous condemnation of them for their sin as they continue sinning against him for eternity.
Niceno-Constantinopalitan Trinitarianism: This refers to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as one divine nature or essence consisting in three divine persons or subsistences as it was first articulated at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 and finalized at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.
Territorial interconnectedness of churches: This refers to the formation of regional and general assemblies of church officers to bring accountability to the ordained officers of individual local churches and aid to their congregations.
Historical confessionalism: This refers to the preservation of pure doctrine found in the Scriptures through the use of secondary standards. The officers of the churches and the local congregations commit themselves to these confessional standards.
Ecclesiastical distinctives: This refers to the defining marks of a true church. Though they can be parsed in various ways, they consist of proper preaching of the Scriptures, proper administration of the Sacraments, proper ordination of the officers, and proper discipline of the congregants. The Word is preached. The Water is poured. The Bread is eaten. The Wine is drank. The Flock is tended.
Monergistic regeneration: This refers to the unilateral work of God (monos meaning ‘one’ + ergos meaning ‘work’) in bringing about the new birth and saving his elect from first to last. All of our salvation is the work of the Lord from beginning to end. God working for us, and God working in us. God providing for us all that he requires of us.
Unio Mystica with Christ unto Duplex Gratia: These Latin expressions refer to the mystical union of the elect with Christ and the twofold grace they are given. They receive justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Union with Christ in the Spirit is the organizing principle of the Reformed doctrine of salvation.
Munus Triplex of Christ: This is a Latin expression for the threefold office of Christ. As the Christ or Messiah, i.e. the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus holds the three divinely anointed offices seen in Scripture. He is the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. Reformed teachers find these categories generally more useful than the modern Evangelical twofold office of Savior and Lord.
The Five Points of the TULIP and the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation are in there somewhere or are otherwise implied. Maybe I’d better figure out how to make a STEM or some POLLEN out of what’s left. And there’s a ton that’s left! The church assemblies in the Reformed tradition wrote these lengthy confessions and catechisms to make it clear what they believed to be the clear teaching of the Christian Faith. Try giving the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards a whirl.
Granted, I have some personal quirks and takes on Reformed confessional standards. And many Reformed people do, if even just a little. These confessional standards are consensus documents from church teachers who had their personal quirks and takes as well.