May 11, 2010 by Michael Dewalt
URC church planter Daniel Hyde felt the need for a clear, concise, and cogent piece of literature to give out to the droves of visitors, inquirers, and curious onlookers that would wander into his church. In order to create something like this, Hyde started over 7 years ago, writing and planning a book that would be more than a mere booklet or a small pamphlet, yet not intimidating to those that did not know of the Reformed faith. The result became Welcome to the Reformed Church, which is trying to get across exactly that—Welcome! Rev. Hyde would like to see those that have specific questions, tend to wonder, or would like to understand what Reformed Church truly is, to be able to get some answers in less than 150 pages. But what makes Rev. Hyde’s book different from those that have tried to do the same in the past, is that Hyde follows the emphases that his own confessions hold, and writes as a former outsider of the Reformed faith in a conversational way. This is extremely helpful to the non-Reformed or the New-Reformed individuals as they are able to see the distinctions of the Reformed Church and differences that had once stood out to Rev. Hyde himself before he became Reformed in confession and practice.
The purpose behind Rev. Hyde’s book is to show exactly what the “roots” are of the Confessional Reformed church—from what they believe and how they live, to where they came from and how they worship God. Hyde lets his thesis be known right from his introduction on pages xxv-xxvi, saying:
“While there are variations from one Reformed church to another, what I hope to communicate to you in this basic welcome to the Reformed churches as a whole can be summarized in three points. First, Reformed churches are Christian churches. They are Christian churches because they believe the Bible is the Word of God, that there is only one God who exists eternally as a Trinity, and that Jesus Christ our Savior is both God and man. Reformed churches hold these beliefs in common with all Christians in all times and places. In the words of Vincent of Lerins (d. 450), “We hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” Second, Reformed churches are Protestant churches along with Lutheran churches because they reject the claims of the pope to be the head of the church, acknowledging instead that Jesus Christ is the Head of His church, and that He rules and governs His church by His Word and His Spirit, not by the dictates of men. Third, Reformed churches are just that—Reformed churches. They are a subset of Protestant churches in that they believe sinful humans are saved by grace alone, from eternity past to eternity future, and that we experience this grace of God earned for us by Christ alone when the Holy Spirit uses certain means that God has appointed in the church: the preaching of the Word of God, which is the Bible, and the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
Rev. Hyde then supports his thesis by focusing on the most important issues dealing with the Reformed Church through its history, such as: What are their roots? Why does the church have confessions? Scripture as the final authority, God’s making of covenants with mankind, What is Justification? What is sanctification? What makes a church? What is worship? and How are preaching and the sacraments the means of grace today?
Rev. Hyde starts the first chapter of his book with a brief history—or “roots” as he calls them—saying to his readers, “Although you may never have been in a Reformed church, we did not just come out of nowhere. We’ve been around the block a few times.” After this, Rev. Hyde shows the importance of why it is necessary to explain what the Reformed Church’s creeds and confessions are, and then details their doctrinal emphases for the reader in chapter two. Moving on throughout the book, another chapter which stands out is chapter 5: “Justification: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone.” This is the article upon which the church stands or falls; the hinges upon which true religion turns; the heartbeat of heaven; and the pulse of the pilgrim.
Two other chapters that also stand out from the others are chapters 8 (on worship) and chapter 9 (on the means of grace in the Reformed Church). As Rev. Hyde told me recently when I asked him about these two chapters in an interview I had with him:
“Not only is evangelicalism a churchless phenomenon—meaning, that the doctrine and nature of the church is utterly neglected—but much of what is passing itself off as “Reformed” today has no real semblance of ecclesiology. Sure there are great preachers out there and people who believe in the so-called five points of Calvinism, but it’s just evangelicalism with the doctrine of election added on. All this to say that I want visitors to my church, and those who may visit other churches, to know that we have a high regard for the church. Worship is our chief end as the Westminster Catechisms state and it is the context in which God meets with his people through the means he has appointed: Word and sacraments.”
Rev. Hyde finishes his book on the Reformed Church with a little extra for those that read beyond chapter 9. He includes 2 appendixes that are most useful for the reader to further study about the Reformed Church. Appendix 1 is a basic “question and answer” of the some of the remaining questions one may have about the Reformed Church. Appendix 2 is a bibliography for those that wish to seek further study on a number of different areas in relationship to the Reformed Church, including theology, covenant, God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, history, liturgy, and community. Rev. Hyde hopes to settle the dispute today among American evangelicalism of what Reformed really is in 3-points: Reformed is Christian, Reformed is Protestant, and Reformed is only Reformed churches, nothing else.
A Methodist would never call himself a Baptist, nor would a Lutheran ever called himself Catholic; it simply would make no sense at all. More still, a Lutheran would never call himself a Reformed-Lutheran for only agreeing on John Calvin’s Soteriology. Today in American evangelicalism, with the growth of John Calvin’s Soteriology in many different circles, comes the title in which many New-Calvinists claim to be: “Reformed.”
Rev. Hyde provides the much-needed definition and historical value, and what it truly means to be a part of a Confessional/Historical Reformed Church. In less than 150-pages, Hyde defines and gives proof of the much used word “Reformed”—what it truly means in its’ historical setting and what the Reformed Church was, and is still today. Additionally, Hyde lays out the foundation and the history of the Reformed Church, examines why they use confessions, and what key doctrines make up the identity of the Reformed Church in today’s culture. If one is new to the term Calvinism, this book should surely help them understand the historical/confessional Reformed faith that lies in churches today. If one is a New-Calvinist, this book is a must read so as to understand what it means to be truly Reformed in its’ historical definition and identity. If one is in a Reformed Church already, this book will give a great reminder of who you are, what it is you came from, and why you believe the truths of the gospel in the way you do.
No matter where you are at in the Christian Faith, Welcome to a Reformed Church must be read for its defining of what and why the Reformed Church truly is what it is today. Furthermore, reading this book will—if nothing else—make you consider and reflect on why you are what you are, and what you believe in the Christian faith.