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What is a Puritan Reformed Congregation?

by Pastor Paul Edwards

What does it mean to be "Puritan Reformed"? Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan defines it succinctly when he describes it as "solid Reformed theology with robust, biblical piety."

Puritan (Robust Piety)

Historically, the Puritans were 17th Century Christians in England who were opposed to the excesses of the Church of England. Led by John Winthrop in 1630, a band of Puritans sailed for the New World and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a town they called Boston. They were characterized by a desire to be free to worship according to their conscience. The Bible, God's holy and inspired word, was the center of their worship, both publicly when they gathered as the church and in private family worship. Their worship services were simple and devoid of so much of the entertainment mindset that characterizes too much of the worship in our Evangelical churches today.

The primary emphasis of Puritan theology and practice was the salvation of the individual soul with an emphasis on spiritual practices to cultivate piety (holy living) in every area of life (prayer, Scripture reading/memorization, attendance at worship, and Sabbath observance). The cultivation of a personal and private devotional life to deepen the individual's relationship with God was a priority, as is seen in their prayers and their preaching (see for example the writings of Richard Baxter and Thomas Watson).

But equally important to the Puritans was the welfare of the community. They were committed to what we often refer to today as "social justice," but with the gospel being central to any permanent solution to the social ills of the culture and society. They did not seek to create a Christian sub-culture. Rather they understood that all of public life and work was to be lived and carried out under the rule of the gospel. Central to this vision was the home.

And the center of the home was family worship. Especially at meal times (morning, noon, and evening) when the family gathered at the table, a few moments were set aside for Scripture reading and prayer. Then every evening the family was led in an extended but brief time of worship by the father which might include singing psalms, reading the Scriptures together, and most certainly questions and answers between parents and children about the Bible and spiritual things. Parents taught their children the importance of a holy life and gave them the tools whereby they could live such a holy life to the glory of God.

Reformed

Reformed theology:

  • presupposes God's Word alone as our ultimate authority
  • stresses the sovereignty of God, that is, His reign over all things, meticulously determining (Eph 1:11) all that comes to pass (i.e. God is never taken by surprise).
  • emphasizes a Christ-Centered proclamation of the gospel, that salvation is wholly of God, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone to the Glory of God alone.
  • views the Bible as a redemptive-historical organic unfolding of revelation which is structured by three covenants (redemption, works and grace).

To be Reformed is to be committed to the Reformed confessional tradition represented in the Three Forms of Unity (The Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and theCanons of Dort).

Reformed Theology looks to the Bible alone for instruction on all aspects of life. This perspective is especially seen in how we approach God in worship.

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The Balanced Life for Every Generation

At Redeemer Puritan Reformed Church we strive to balance what we believe (our Reformed theology) with how we behave (a robust piety). We hope this balance is reflected in our public worship. Our aim is to equip parents to lead their families to make the home the center of spiritual life.

But our emphasis is not just on parents with young children. We believe that this balance between theology and piety is what is missing in most of our lives, leading to frustration in every area of our life. It is our belief that every demographic - from university students to senior adults - will find this balanced approach helpful in deepening their relationship with our Creator God who has so graciously revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ.