Reformed Ethos, Part 8: The Disciplined Life


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.

Eighth, there is an emphasis upon the disciplined life. "Personal discipline was a characteristic of the early Protestant reformers of all persuasions, as it is of most persons who accomplish much. Yet even among highly disciplined people, Calvin stands out not only in his personal achievement but also in his insistence that discipline should characterize Christian life and community" (p. 85).

"Discipline, as the Reformed tradition as advocated it, can best be understood as the deliberate and economic use of the energies and vitalities of human existence in the pursuit of loyalty to God and the advancement of God's cause in the world" (p. 86).

"The discipline of the Reformed tradition, especially as illustrated by Calvin and the Puritans, was not regarded as a burden. It was a manner of life that was freely chosen and that was believed to be the means of the joyful and responsible freeing of life's energies and vitalities" (p. 87).

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