Often in conversations, when someone hears that our blog is named Gentle Reformation, I get a funny look and/or a “Huh, that’s interesting.” Follow-up comments then usually go down two well-worn paths.
Many express that they do not think of the words “gentle” and “reformed” going together, as their experience of Calvinists – or at least their impressions of them – are of the hard-nosed, nostril-flaring, looking-down-the-nose types. Especially on the internet, they have run across anything but gentleness when it comes to discussions of reformed theology.
Others – always guys and often the type the first group have run across – basically think the name is wimpy, even girly. A good number of the young, restless, and reformed types often combine their Calvinism with strong doses of machismo. The image they want is that of a husky, bearded man wearing a “I’m a John Knox Homeboy” T-shirt with a beer in one hand, a cigar in the other, and a pistol strapped to his side. Gentle to them is just plain embarrassing.
So perhaps it would be helpful to give a reminder of why we chose this name and, along with it, a few updates.
Gentleness is to be a quality of Christians and their leaders. In the list of qualifications for elders in I Timothy 3, Paul tells Timothy that elders are not to be pugnacious but instead gentle in their manner. Yet it is not only leadership that is to possess this characteristic. One quality of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness as we read in Galatians 5:22-23. Thus, Paul told the Thessalonians that he proved to be gentle among them in his gospel ministry to them (I Thessalonians 2:7). As I think back on my spiritual formation and the men who greatly influenced me – with some names such as Jeff, Ken, Dave, Roy, Renwick, Bruce, Wayne, Clark, Ken, Ted, and Jerry quickly coming to mind – the trait of gentleness is not only common among them but a deep part of their character.
That is why I have asked those who have demonstrated themselves to be Christian gentleman to join me on this blog. Now, that does not mean we do not have some bearded and/or husky men in our midst (see for yourselves). Neither does it mean we are unwilling to fight when necessary. We just believe we are to engage in it only when forced to do so, and we prefer it face-to-face in such places as people’s living rooms or presbytery meetings, rather than in the cowardly forum of an internet chat room or, worse yet, the comment section of a blog. Yet even when we vigorously disagree with another or are speaking urgently to one trapped in sin, we are still to do so with respect and gentleness.
Gentleness is to be our manner of speaking and teaching. As our theme text and purpose statement explain, Christian teaching is to be done in a spirit of gentleness. We are to be persuasive with our teaching, not polemical pugilists. Here are just a few of many verses that encourage this spirit.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. -Proverbs 15:4
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? -I Corinthians 4:21
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. -I Timothy 2:24
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. -I Peter 3:15
So though we acknowledge that we regularly fail at maintaining this high standard, we do strive for it. We love such things as church history, psalm singing, or the Westminster Confession of Faith, but strive not to cram them down people’s throats. We are interested in and study current debates, but try not to go hunting for kill down every theological bunny trail. We want to show that reformed doctrine truly is for all of life, so we seek to write on, link to, and podcast about a variety of subjects rather than only worship issues or soteriological debates. You can see this variation in our top five posts for last year:
Gentleness is the nature of our Lord and Savior. When we look at the life, heart, and teaching of Jesus, we see his gentle spirit and ways. In teaching, he called people by saying, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). In dealing with the lost, he did so meekly, be it touching a leper, eating with sinners, or allowing a woman to wash his feet with her hair. In heading to the cross, he entered into Jerusalem with these prophetic words spoken of him:
Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’ (Matthew 21:5).
Being gentle like our Savior is what we should all be seeking in our life and conduct.
To help toward this, we desire to be a source of encouragement to our readers. One common piece of feedback I have received over the past few years from the readers of this blog is for it to be more regular and consistent. It has been our goal for some time to have daily, weekday posts. Only in the past three months, with a good balance of writers and scheduling, have we begun to achieve it. We hope you have noticed and benefited from the greater regularity.
We appreciate your faithfulness to read, comment, and share the word of Gentle Reformation. One way you can encourage and help us further in sharing is to go to our Facebook page and like us, and even invite some of your friends to do so as well.
And now you can even help explain what’s up with the name!