T-R or NOT T-R: What is the Question?

June 15, 2010

As a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, and an alumnus of Reformed Theological Seminary, I am well acquainted with a group from within our Reformed heritage that refer to themselves as TR’s – Thoroughly Reformed or Truly Reformed.  These are the folks who lean furthest to the Right within the PCA. On a few occasions I have had people accuse me of being a TR – something any of my TR friends and acquantances would find laughable. 

I am thankful for a fellow member of my presbytery posting a link on Facebook to a post titled: How to Get Along With TR’s.  The man who posted the link would definitely consider himself firmly within the TR camp.  As I’ve grown to know him I have also grown to appreciate him. We often disagree on matters of secondary importance, but I have had opportunity to see his heart in several settings where we have both been participants. That has made a world of difference. And the article he pointed me to is also helpful.  I will be the first to admit I have on many occasions violated the principles the author asks guys like me to consier when relating to TR’s.  This article gives me something to chew on.

At the same time, I’d like to offer another perspective – an article written by a non-TR guy (who is nevertheless essentially Reformed) describing encounters with some TR folks.  This article, by John Armstrong, of Act 3, is titled: Why Are Some Reformed Christians Mean?  I have to confess that Armstrong describes well some of the encounters I have had.

My intent in posting these links is NOT to spark more debate. We have enough of that already.  My intent is to offer these different perspectives in hopes of promoting  better mutual understanding.

4 Responses to “T-R or NOT T-R: What is the Question?”

  1. David Alexander Says:

    Dennis,

    Armstrong is pretty tough on the Reformed. Interesting….I was just thinking yesterday the next person who asks if I’m Reformed I’m going to say Absolutely ! God has indeed reformed me (II Cor 5:17) and I’m being reformed as God makes me to be more and more conformed to the image of Jesus…

  2. Dennis Griffith Says:

    There is a wonderful richness in the Reformed Tradition. More than any other tradition, I believe, the Reformed take seriously God and Scripture. But our sin often distorts what is beautiful and leaves an ugly stain. So it is with some of us with a Reformed worldview.

    I think Armstrong is not so much hard o the Reformed as he is on some within the Reformed tradition who are unpleasnt to be around. Such people are argumentative, and seem to always be looking for a way to demonstrate how faithful they are. (For instance,if someone were to say something simple, like: “You are lucky”, such a person will be quick to point out that there is no such thing as luck, only the providence of God. While valid, too much of that kind of stuff grows tiresome very quickly.)

    The other side of that is the person who dismisses all theology and shoots for the lowest common denominator. That is what drives the TR crazy – and probably rightly so. To look for only the lowest common denominator is to relegate God’s revelation to mere trivia. It essentially suggests what people think and/or want is more important than knowing God and knowing more about him. This may be gentler, but I think it is still driven by our sin, and it is equally ugly.

    I am convinced that the only healthy perspective is to meditate on the Doctrines of Grace and allow them to humble us. The result: Humble Orthodoxy leading to Humble Orthopraxy.

  3. Wes Alford Says:

    I plan on reading both articles. Thanks for the post on FB. I was thinking about this the other day. My thoughts are broad and general, but I’ll offer them anyway. The problem with some in the Reformed camp is that they are prone to suffer from idolatry of the system of our theology. They may love and know the system of Reformed Theology better than they know Christ and grace. The heart issue of the love of being right (as in correct) is part of the problem and that is just pride. The Person of Christ has been well formulated but too easily missed. On the other hand are those who are “all about relationship” and who downplay the importance of serious theological reflection. They “love Jesus” but too often their Jesus is one in need of a reformation according to Scripture. My thought is to strive to be rigorously theological (in a biblical, reformed sort of way) but not to stop there. My theology needs to lead me to the person of Jesus, His holiness and love. Here’s a last thought: Some spend all their time & energy building and refining a strong theological foundation (the system) but they don’t build much of a building on that foundation (love). The foundation is for the purpose of supporting a well-built building, a life well lived by grace in love for the glory of God and the good of His people. Let one’s theology be well-formulated, but let it lead to grace, prayer, communion with God, greater love and a generous heart.

  4. David Alexander Says:

    Dennis I agree with what you said. It makes a lot of sense to me. Wes, I find your comment about being rigorously theological (in a biblical reformed sort of way) interesting. Can’t we just be Biblical and Follow Jesus and that be enough?

    What more do we need to add? Maybe I’m being too simple


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