7 Characteristics of Reformed Spirituality

by Daniel L. Sonnenberg

I first met Dr. Hughes Old at Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando when I attended a course he taught based on his book Leading in Prayer. Though some will disagree with his evaluation, I respect his view on this subject because he has written so widely on the Reformed tradition including such works as Worship: Reformed According to Scripture, The Patristic Roots of Reformed WorshipThe Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth CenturyHoly Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church and “Reformed tradition of Eucharistic piety and reflection.”

In “What is Reformed Spirituality? Played Over Again Lightly,” Hughes Oliphant Old identifies 7 central characteristics of the way Reformed culture has expressed itself since the time of John Calvin and his successors. He says it is a spirituality (piety, devotion, practice of Christian living) that emphasizes: the Word; the Psalter; the Lord’s Day; works of mercy; the covenant of grace embodied in the Lord’s Supper; stewardship; and, meditation on the mystery of divine Providence. Dr. Old states:

The Reformation was a reform of spirituality as much as it was a reform of theology… Rather than separating themselves from human society, Christians began to think of devotion in terms of living out every day life according to God’s will…  For Protestants spirituality became a matter of how one lived the Christian life with the family, out in the fields, in the workshop, in the kitchen, or at one’s trade.

In Zach Hicks’ recent blog post on Reformed worship practice, he points out that the Reformed tradition is much more varied than many suppose. And like him, because I did not grow up in that tradition, I have had much to learn (and am still learning) about its theology and its spirituality. So check out Dr. Old’s article, think it over, and comment here if you wish.

Categories: Articles, Reformed theology

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