Reformed Ethos, Part 4: A Life of Holiness


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.

Fourth, there is an emphasis upon ethics and a life of holiness. "The end of the Christian life, according to Calvin, is a life conformed to the will of God. Therefore, any theology or worship that does not edify must be re-examined" (p. 79).

"The Christian life is, on the one hand, justification by grace through faith and, on the other, sanctification. To put it in other words, salvation is both forgiveness and renewal, both God's grace as mercy and God's grace as power. The proper unity of these two aspects of thye one experience of salvation is never easy to achieve" (p. 79).

"The Christian is not only a forgiven person but an ethical person. . . . The elect person is called to a life of service and obedience. The forgiven person is summoned to live by the law of God" (p. 80).

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