Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Warning for my Reformed Brethren

I'm a reformed pastor. I use the small "r" because I do not find myself fitting comfortably in the capital "R" reformed tradition, since I believe in believer's baptism, pre-tribulational, pre-millennial eschatology, and a future for ethnic Israel as the restored "natural branches" who will return to God after the times of the Gentiles are completed (Rom. 11).

That said, I find a lot to enjoy among my "big R" brethren. I find their commitments to the inerrant Scriptures, the doctrines of grace, and the revelation of Christ in all the Scriptures refreshing in our mushy evangelical world. I love their appreciation for church history and the consequent realization that the Christian life did not begin and will not end with them. I love the emphasis on expository preaching as the way which brings the Scripture to life such that God is allowed to speak old words to new days. I have attended and deeply benefited from their conferences (Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition) and look forward to going again the future for soul refreshment and the encouragement that only comes from the Word of God faithfully preached and the fellowship of the saints.

That said, I am deeply concerned about some of the things I see in the broader Cool Calvinists movement:
  1. The inability to disagree in an irenic way. I see this in everything from John MacArthur's well-publicized theological shiv for those who disagree with him on alcohol use to the commenters on the average theology blog, most of which comments I can no longer read for this very reason. There simply has to be some setting between "not a big deal" and "bury the needle." The sky is not falling nor is someone a hypocrite, a false teacher, or a heretic simply because he or she disagrees with you. This is closely related to #2, which is...
  2. Pride. We who hold to the doctrines of grace are right about many important things, but it is simply arrogance to assume we are personally correct about them all. We do well to remember that we are not the definition of theologically orthodoxy, nor does disagreement with me (whoever "me" is) equal departure from "the faith once for all delivered to all the saints."
  3. Exclusion. I never cease to find it odd that while Reformed Charismatics like C.J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll are welcomed, Reformed Dispensationalists are the treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Chuck Swindoll, Chip Ingram, Tommy Nelson, and others of like mind do not appear anywhere, but James McDonald was a headliner prior to that unfortunate Elephant Room business. Which is weird, to say the least. We shun those who could be reliable friends when we need them and we are limiting the potential unifying effect of what could be a much broader and deeper movement to renew evangelicalism.
These are worrisome not just because they involve sinful attitudes and behaviors, but because, if they are not corrected, I fear that the broader movement will fall apart just as it begins to have real influence and is most needed. Indeed, I fear it is already happening.


SteveW said...

Joe, I could not agree with you more. The things we need to be standing on are often forgotten about when eschatology or ecclesiology or 5 points or baptism or well, this comment would be really long if I don't stop here. Please continue to preach the glory and HOPE of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and don't let others take you off that joy!!!!

The Bullhorn said...


Thanks for the good word, old friend. Keeping the main thing the main thing is hard, it seems. We do well to widen the circle of our friends and shrink the enemies list, amen?