Theology is different from religion for theology starts with God, and moves to anthropology, or the study of man. Religion starts with anthropology, or man, and moves to God. The study of religion is the study of human behavior such as prayer, sacrifice, and ethics. Exodus 32 tells the tragic story of a man made religion.
Theology is the Queen of all sciences, or studies. All other studies are subsumed in theology. Theology is a theology which sets forth a belief system with God at the center. “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
Reformed theology is a systematic theology. It seeks to know the particular facts of Scripture in an organized way. A presupposition of Reformed theology is that the Bible makes sense. God is rational, and speaks to individuals in an organized, and rational manner. As the Bible is studied, it is recognized that every doctrine touches every other doctrine in some way. The whole of the Christian faith is integrally related. There is symmetry to the Scriptures. Systematic theology does not impose a system on Scripture, but seeks to find the system that is in Scripture. The beginning of systematic theology begins with Theology Proper, or the nature of God.
In Reformed theology, the doctrine of God becomes a distinct understanding in as far as His sovereignty is emphasized. In the doctrine of election, in the doctrines of God, when the sovereignty of God is magnified, it becomes a controlling factor in the discussion.
Reformed theology magnifies God’s sovereignty, while Arminian theology diminishes it to exalt man’s free will, and responsibility.
Question. “Does God ordain everything that comes to pass?”
Question. “Does God know everything that comes to pass?”
Question. “Does God foreknow with certainty who will be saved?”
Question. “What is the relationship of God’s sovereignty to His knowledge?”
Reformed theology maintains that theology is life, for it focuses attention on God, and not upon felt needs, and psychological comfort. It is important to have a proper theology. Luther said that he attacked the pope in his belly, meaning he attacked the pope in his theology.
Reformed theology is catholic. It is universal. It is applicable to every nation. The Reformation itself was not a revolution, but an effort to reclaim the historic apostolic faith. The truths that are confessed, and embraced by all Christians are catholic, or universal.
The Virgin Birth.
The deity of Christ was confirmed at the Council of Nicea
The substitutionary work of Christ as atonement for sin.
The body death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
The true humanity of Jesus was affirmed at the Council of Chalcedon.
Reformed theology is a catholic theology. It is distinct from Dispensational theology, Arminian theology, or Lutheran theology.
Reformed theology is recognized by distinct doctrines, such as the doctrines of grace, but it shares a catholic unity with all other Christians.
Reformed theology is also evangelical. All who are evangelical are catholic, in the historic sense. Not all who are catholic are evangelical, however. All who are evangelical share the common doctrine of the church, which is universal. However, not everyone who is evangelical is Presbyterian, or Reformed.
The term evangelical is under seize today. When coined during the Reformation, it referred to those Christians who believed in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. They were recovering the heart of the gospel, or the “evangel.”
The whole Reformation debate centered on the question, “What is the gospel?” Protestants called themselves evangelicals, meaning that they were embracing the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone.
The other doctrine that was common to evangelicals was the authority of Scripture.
Theologians say that the material cause of the Reformation was the doctrine of justification. The formal cause of the Reformation was the doctrine of the authority of Scripture.
Reformed theology is catholic, it is evangelical, and it is reformed, as far as taxonomy. Taxonomy is the science of classification. For example, in the natural world there is the plant kingdom, and the animal kingdom. Eight major ranks are noted: life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.
In religion there are many divisions. Lutherans hold to their distinctives, as Baptist hold to theirs. But each group can be catholic, and they can be evangelical.
The Reformed theology has within itself commonality with other evangelical and catholic groups.