Reformed theology = reformed culture?
The Rev. William Still, a patriarch of the Church of Scotland in the twentieth century, preaching on Romans 5:5 and the love of God being poured into our hearts, said this:
“I wonder what it is about poring all over a great deal of Puritan literature that makes so many preachers of it so horribly cold. I don’t understand it, because I think it’s a wonderful literature. . . . I don’t know if you can explain this to me. I’d be very glad to know, because it worries me. But I hear over and over and over again this tremendous tendency amongst people who delve deeply into Puritan literature that a coldness, a hardness, a harshness, a ruthlessness — anything but sovereign grace — enters into their lives and into their ministries. Now, it needn’t be so. And it isn’t always so, thank God. And you see, the grace, the grace, of a true Calvinist and Puritan — that is to say, a biblical Puritan and Calvinist — is wonderful. . . . But O God, deliver us from this coldness!”
The problem is not reformed theology per se. Inherent within that theology is a humbling and melting and softening and beautifying tendency. The problem is when that theology is not allowed to exert its natural authority. Instead, in the name of reformed theology, our own native religiosity creates a culture at odds with that theology. And our religious culture, whatever it is, reveals what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe. If we are cold, hard, harsh and ruthless — and can we say this does not occur among those who wave the reformed banner? — if we are ungracious in our relationships and ethos and demeanor and vibe and culture, then we are betraying the doctrines of grace and only using them for covert purposes of self-exaltation.
O God, deliver us from this coldness!