American Reformed Christians have weathered a number of challenges in recent years, from Federal Vision to Ancient Near Eastern literature. Underneath the responses to those difficulties simmers a deeper question about how Reformed someone needs to be in order to be Reformed. Some refuse cooperation (at least ecclesiastically) with non-Reformed, others are willing to work around ecclesial restrictions to find common ground with evangelicals and other conservative Protestants (except Lutherans, of course).
My sense is that these dispositions among conservative Reformed Christians go to a deeper tension, one that John Frame seems to notice in his recent book on Christian ethics. He observes that Reformed Christianity has developed a reputation as a smoker’s movement. “Some understand a discussion among Reformed theologians,” he writes, “to be incomplete without cigars, pipes and cigarettes.” Frame cautions against this kind of Reformed identity with the heavy hand of mortality. “Some of the men I’ve know who have been most insistent on their freedom to smoke have died of emphysema and lung cancer.”
What Frame has failed to notice is that within another sector Reformed Christianity has become synonymous with classic rock ‘n roll of the 1970s. In those circles the discussion of Reformed theology seems to be incomplete without references to The Who or The Boss. And where the Reformed smokers tend to be unwilling to cooperate with non-Reformed, Reformed rockers have shown greater willingness to work with evangelicals. Could it be that a person’s attachment to certain forms of leisure activity affects his understanding of the Reformed faith?
The answer is unclear, but to paraphrase Garrison Keillor on non-smokers living longer but living dumber, Reformed smokers may not live as long as Reformed rockers, but at least smokers can hear.