Reformed Christianity, in its richest and fullest expression, strongly emphasizes the biblical covenants. Surely this is one of the great distinctives of the tradition. This emphasis has sometimes been taken to conclusions that do not sound much like biblical teaching. They sound to me, to be honest, more like systematic theological categories created in the heat and smoke of polarizing battle. But, and this is very an important but, the tradition keeps alive this covenantal emphasis, which I believe is very important.

One aspect of the covenantal idea, often overlooked even in Reformed circles, is the communal nature of covenantal language and faith. We are meant to experience the covenant and we are meant to experience it in community. We are baptized into a covenantal  community on the basis of the promises of that covenant, thus when the covenantal idea first appears in the Old Testament it directly shapes Israel as a people around the cultus and the commandments of Yahweh.

Historically the Reformed confessions, and the Reformed churches of those confessions, have understood this covenantal doctrine to include personal responsibility for all others within the covenant. This is at the heart of the law of God and the covenantal arrangement. It is a profound blessing to be united with others and a shared responsibility that must be taken far more seriously then it is presently if we would renew the faith and life of the church in our time. American democratic idealism must not be allowed to trump covenantal responsibility.