The Reformed Identity
To articulate our school’s identity as ‘reformed’ is to recognise the way the School Committee and parents of our students, as well as the teaching and student body, connect the roots of our school’s mission and practice with the ‘reforming’ work the Lord graciously allowed in His church during the Great Reformation. In the sixteenth century, the Lord allowed His Church to recover seminal biblical truths about the pre-eminence of Scripture as sole authority as well as the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ alone, only by God’s grace and to His glory.
While the reformed tradition/identity goes back to Augustine and the early church, it was late medieval reformers like the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, and the French humanist-turned reformer, John Calvin, who were used by God in dramatic fashion to rediscover the Scriptures and the gospel message contained therein. This led to sweeping ‘reform’ as many Protestant teachers and leaders in their wake strove to give the Bible, previously the domain of scholars and clerics only, a place of supreme authority in every believer’s life. The eponymous giver of the name of our school – John Calvin – also provides us with our motto, “I offer my heart to thee, My Lord, promptly and sincerely”. Just a few decades later, Guido de Bres, another reformer, penned more about our Reformed service in one of our adopted confessional standards (The Belgic Confession, 1561):
“He has given to every creature its being, shape, and form, and to each its specific task and function to serve its Creator. We believe that He also continues to sustain and govern them according to His eternal providence and by His infinite power in order to serve man, to the end that man may serve his God (Article 12).”
Paramount to this new Reformed tradition, then, was the redefining of the status and calling of all believers. No longer simply the unschooled laity, scraping and bowing to the burdensome and insufficient penitential system to work at their salvation, Christian men and women and children in the Reformed tradition, in their new-found righteousness, found themselves greatly enriched:
“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10”
They were now part of a long-standing lineage going back to Adam, ‘chosen’, ‘royal’, living stones built up into God’s own people. No longer floundering in an insufficient theology, they were empowered, Bible in hand, believing in the efficacious redemption rendered once and for all on the saving merit of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross alone. What’s more, they were allowed the privilege of proclaiming this good news in purple robes of a royal priesthood and proffering their hearts in thankful praise as priests and prophets!
It is in this tradition that the identity of the John Calvin School Albany can be found – in the subjecting of all areas of life, knowledge and human learning to the biblical authority of the inerrant, infallible Word of God and in the recovery and reinstating of the office of all believers.
These two understandings are both foundational and transformational; foundational, in that this rich religious tradition fundamentally shapes our practice, and, transformational, in that these beliefs import to the present calling of every Reformed believer.
While we acknowledge we do this in much weakness, we believe our teachers, students, and administrative body all act daily as priests, ‘offering our hearts promptly and sincerely’ in service to Him; as prophets confessing that our identity is caught up in the mighty acts of God as they unfold in the different classrooms; and in a kingly fashion, taking every thought captive in every teaching/learning scenario.
To be reformed is to be caught up in the grand narrative of the sovereign work of God in our lives. To that end, we honour the grace He showed in recovering the divine gospel historically and praise him for the privilege of the day-to-day service we offer him, starting with our hearts and then our obedience, then our subjects, our skills, our duties and our classrooms. Reflecting our King Jesus Christ, we, too, in a right-royal ‘kingly’ way can take ‘every thought captive’ as the Scriptures open up for us the full reality of our revealed world – whether it be in the arts, science, creation or politics classroom.
To be Reformed is to honour the God of the Scriptures in totality and to take seriously our three-fold calling in our daily service to God and man.