Presbyterians are in the Reformed tradition of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther represents one wing of the Reformation and Lutheranism reflects certain beliefs and practices associated with the famous reformer’s work.
John Calvin, the French reformer whose work was best demonstrated in Geneva, emphasized different aspects of theology based on the biblical witness especially when it came to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (means of grace vs. means of salvation). Those who followed in Calvin’s tradition came to be known as “more reformed” than others. Hence, the label “Reformed” tradition.
Lutheranism has adhered to a "two kingdom" theology. God’s kingdom is different from and not to be compared to the earth’s human kingdoms. We aspire to the godly kingdom but cannot realize it on earth according to Lutheranism. (Apologies for the oversimplification.)
Reformed spirituality reflects the view that a Christian’s faith is an active faith seeking social transformation toward the goal of building God’s kingdom on earth.
Calvin and the Reformed tradition see things differently. When Jesus said that the kingdom was “at hand” or “near” or “amongst you” (being realized on earth), the Reformed tradition understood that Christians have a role to play in forming God’s kingdom in their own life and work.
Reformed spirituality reflects the view that a Christian’s faith is an active faith seeking social transformation toward the goal of building God’s kingdom on earth. Calvin used the word “piety” when referring to the spiritual life of the believer. (Piety is from the Latin pietas meaning “dutiful.”) One has a duty to love God and love neighbor, said Calvin. Led by the spirit, we seek to continue Christ’s mission of lifting the lowly and insuring justice to the oppressed. In Calvin’s Geneva, a hospital was built to serve the needs of the poor. Christians had a duty to provide free healthcare as an expression of their piety (spiritual health).
Worshippers at the church Calvin served in Geneva made two offerings–one for the administration of the church and one for the poor. The offering for the poor was made as they left the church! Worship wasn’t a private act of feeling pious but an act of piety to love their neighbors.
What’s the last thing you do before you leave worship?