Around the Reformed blogosphere, Reformation Day is being celebrated. I will add my two-cents worth here by trying to describe in brief fashion the distinctives of the Reformation.
The first distinctive of the Reformation is is emphasis on the glory of God. This is one of the five solas. However, in many ways, this is the architectonic one. Everything resolves ultimately to the glory of God alone.
Of course, the rest of the solas are vital. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, revealed to us in Scripture alone. Justification by faith alone is the material principle of the Reformation, while Scripture alone was the foundational principle. The former doctrine was rediscovered, not discovered, and was directed against the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching, which was primarily semi-Pelagian. The principle of Scripture alone was directed against the Roman Catholic elevation of the Pope and tradition to the level of Scripture. Nothing has the same authority in our lives that Scripture has. This does not mean that we ignore what the church has said. But we must always subordinate what people say to what God says.
The Five Points of Calvinism is not definitive for the entire Reformation, but it is definitive of the Reformed branch of the Reformation. These were the decisions reached by the Canons of Dort in response to Arminian teaching about an absolute free will.
Another distinctive of the Reformation is a rediscovery of the Covenant. Covenant theology is the best way of describing God’s relationship to His people. The Covenant is not the relationship itself. Rather, it is the documentation of the relationship. It is what is down on paper.