Reformed Ethos, Part 3: God Is Lord of Human History


Historically, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have embodied a distinctive way of being the Christian community. Dr. John H. Leith, professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, identified nine motifs or themes of this ethos.

Third, there is an awareness that God is not only the creator of the natural world in general but also the lord of human history in particular. "God is working his purpose out in human history. He calls his people to be the instruments of his purpose. His purposes are not simply the salvation of souls but also the establishment of a holy community and the glorification of his name throughout all the earth" (p. 75).

"Calvin, it must be clearly understood, did not think of himself as a 'change agent' but as a servant of God. The kingdom of God, not a human Utopia; the glory of God, not humanitarianism, was his goal, though he did insist that love of neighbor is the truest test of orthodoxy and doctrine. Yet Calvin set in motion movements that did change society because he united his own theology and its peculiar emphases with an awareness of the modern world" (p. 77).

How can we best embody this in the lives of the churches we serve today?

To read more, see John H. Leith, An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition: A Way of Being the Christian Community, revised edition (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), Chapter 3, "The Ethos of the Reformed Tradition," pp. 70-88.

For more information, click on this link to Westminster John Knox Press:

An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition.

To learn more about Dr. Leith, click on this link to the Foundation website, including a memorial, a selected bibliography, and a link to audio recordings of thirty-seven of his sermons and lectures:

John Haddon Leith.

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV
Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
4103 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230
(804) 678-8352