Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Horton: What Is Reformed Spirituality?

Posted by James Grant

Tullian Tchividjian:

Reformed people usually get charged with being doctrinal purists who are spiritually dry (hence the phrase “frozen chosen”). This charge depends, though, on one’s defintion of true spirituality. In the “Final Thoughts” column of the May/June edition of Modern Reformation magazine, Michael Horton describes Reformed spirituality by emphasizing that true spirituality is grounded first in what God has accomplished outside of us, not what he performs inside of us. “When we follow the opposite direction”, writes Horton, “we’re swimming upstream–against the current of God’s gracious condescension to sinners.” He explains:

Almost everything that is advocated as “spirituality” or “spiritual disciplines” today is private and focuses on the inner life of the individual, but Christianity is wildly, unashamedly, thoroughly public and focuses on Christ’s historical work and the way that he comes to us by his Spirit–not through private revelations or subjective experiences, but through ordinary human language (preaching), water (baptism), bread and wine (Lord’s Supper). God comes to us in Jesus Christ by his Spirit outside of our reason and experience. His visitation throws us off balance, surprising us instead of simply soothing us or confirming our piety.

So when someone asks us about our spirituality or piety, we typically talk about the public ministry of preaching and sacrament as well as prayer, Bible reading, catechism, and singing Psalms and hymns at home and at church. When the Westminster divines said that “God blesses the reading but especially the preaching of the Word as a means of grace,” they were highlighting this point. From a covenantal perspective, God works from the outside in, from that which God accomplished for us and outside of us to that which he performs within us and through us, from the public to the personal, from what has happened in the past to what is happening in the present. When we follow the opposite direction, we’re swimming upstream–against the current of God’s gracious condescension to sinners.