top of page
  • Writer's picturecocodensmore

“Life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage.”

March 7, 2024

Quite unexpectedly, Reformed Theology has become my favorite class. We’ve read some of the creeds and confessions and there is much good to be gleaned.

I was especially touched by the Confession of 1967, a restatement of what the American Presbyterian Church stood for in that time of dramatic upheaval in the United States and the world. Although much of the language is dated the Confession addresses many issues we continue to grapple with today. I admired the church’s attempt to update their focus and mission, and I found sections of the Confession quite compelling. From section 9.17:

“Life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage.”

That’s a long way of saying that since moving our focus off John Calvin, I have found much to appreciate about Reformed Theology. I found Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Universalist position squarely in line with mine. I’m encouraged. But there’s an ugly side to what I’m finding in my research.

The spiritual abuse I experienced was at the hands of the Southern Baptists and then later, with that branch of the family who were ardent Reformed Baptists. (I stay far far away from the Baptists.) I’ve come across a new strain of pain: the NeoReformed. The NeoReformed movement is an especially virulent strain of churches adhering to the Calvinist tradition. I pulled this definition:

“The term ‘NeoReformed’ refers to a group of individuals who aggressively embrace Reformed theology, elevating certain doctrines to central importance and viewing those outside their circle as unfaithful to the gospel. This movement is characterized by a strong adherence to Reformed theology and a tendency to exalt peripheral doctrines while demonizing those who disagree. NeoReformed individuals are described as religious zealots who prioritize specific theological beliefs and may be more interested in protesting evangelicalism than in saving it.”

There are books devoted to the spiritual abuse experienced in these churches, and an extensive podcast series done by Christianity Today titled The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. If you have experienced spiritual abuse, this material is going to feel very familiar, uncomfortably familiar. As painful as it was for me to listen, I found it incredibly validating and helpful in my personal recovery process. You may as well.

These might be helpful as well:

If you’ve experienced spiritual abuse and you’d like to talk, I can listen. Contact me at



bottom of page