by Greg Henry
Chapter 6 begins the second
section of the book. Following the book’s subtitle "Our Beliefs,
Practices, and Stories," we move now from beliefs to practices. The first
chapter in this section deals with Reformed "piety," an older term
with Puritan overtones roughly equivalent to today’s phrases "spirituality"
or "devotion" or "the Christian life."
Lucas begins the chapter by making
the case for using the term "piety" instead of some alternatives.
While the semantics are not important to me personally, the concept is, and
from the start Lucas appropriately hammers home the point that in the Reformed
view the daily Christian life is not separate from our belief structure, in
fact our life practices are inseparable from, and based upon, our beliefs. What
we believe determines how we behave. Good (Biblical) theology should result in
good (Biblical) practices. In asserting this, we counter the artificial
dichotomy between head & heart, or between doctrine & practice, which
are prevalent in evangelical thought. This is the kind of thinking that
relegates theology to certain advanced Sunday School classes or Bible institute
classes, while the focus of the rest of church and personal worship is upon the
"practical," as if theology is antithetical to practice. Good theology
is the very basis of the practical!
Turning our attention to the more
concrete, Lucas discusses a variety of practices which are characteristic of
the Reformed Christian life: worship (both personal, family, and corporate),
preaching, the sacraments, prayer, singing, the Sabbath, service, and financial
support. While most of these practices are not unique to the Reformed faith,
what is unique is the support for each element found in the Westminster
Standards, which Lucas quotes extensively throughout the chapter. One cannot
avoid the conclusion that in Reformed thinking, piety doesn’t just
"happen" in a spontaneous experiential manner. Instead, the elements
of Reformed piety have been well-considered and well-studied since the
Reformation, and are significant enough to be included in our Confessional and
Catechismal standards. These activities of the Christian life are not just
habits, practices performed out of church or family tradition, but practices
with a Biblical and historic foundation, rooted in our beliefs.