Why Aren’t the Reformed Wise?

One reason is our refusal to look at the situation we’re in.

Again, citing the sufficiency/power/what-you-like, we often proudly refuse to lift a finger to help the lost, preach with clarity, strategize for mission, or otherwise do anything to shake ourselves out of traditionalism or passivity.

We downplay “techniques” and “strategies” for the contemporary situation because we are – we say – honoring scripture. My contention isn’t against honoring God’s word – just the opposite. I believe those citing this line over and against technique don’t, in fact, believe it.

Why? Because true honoring of God’s word requires a careful study of our situation.

Think of it: how does one “obey your parents” if you don’t know who your parents are? At least that much is required. Furthermore, obedience requires an understanding of your parents’ particular desires and needs, as well as the particulars of your culture which make for “honoring”.

But let’s press further back: someone, somewhere, had to understand the Hebrew language, as well as the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of the English language in contemporary usage to translate that commandment for you. You also have a basic grasp of your situation – the language your situation provides – to comprehend.

You couldn’t possibly downplay any of these understandings in the name of honoring scripture.

Scripture is normative, no doubt. But a norm without a situation isn’t a norm at all. It’s just an abstraction. And that’s a lot of the reformed mold – abstraction by abstraction from abstraction. That’s not obedience, but hypocrisy.

I might also put it so boldly: Understanding the situation is not less important than obeying scripture – it IS obeying scripture. If we refuse to understand our situation, fine – but let’s at least set aside the notion that our motive is the honor of God’s word.

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Posted in Preaching, Theology.


Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.


  1. “Again, citing the sufficiency/power/what-you-like, we often proudly refuse to lift a finger to help the lost …”

    I remember a blog post by a group of young reformed pastors a few years ago where they argued that no Christian should help a non-Christian unless it had an evangelical component. They actually argued that God expects his people to let non-believing people starve, suffer oppression, etc., unless helping those people could be done in a way that evangelized them as well.

    They actually taught that giving a kid a sandwich was against God’s will unless it was given to a kid you know is a Christian or was given to a kid who was the object of your evangelistic efforts. According to them, just giving a starving kid something to eat.without one of those conditions being met was a sin.

    • It’s amazing how we’re able to twist scripture to suit our ends, sometimes, isn’t it? The reformed of all people should know that our sinful bents make our application of doctrine often out of line with our (I think) correct doctrinal assumptions.

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