November 20, 2017

iMonk Classic: Riffs (02:18:09)–Scot McKnight on the “Neo-Reformed”

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
Originally posted February 18, 2009

‘Twas not so long ago, on a Calvinistic web site you’ve all visited, that one could hear a serious call to present one’s reformed credentials if one planned to be part of the discussion.

‘Twas also not so long ago, on more than one Calvinistic web site, that a person disagreeing with the main points of the host would be asked to answer “What is the gospel?”

And ’twas not so long ago, that I said, “I’m not a Calvinist,” an announcement that has now earned me at least a weekly email or two telling me that I am about to leave the faith or become a Roman Catholic.

In my own journey, I had happy days as a Calvinist. My days at Southern Baptist Founder’s Conference meetings as a “Timothy George” type SBC Calvinist were good times. Then there were the bad times. Posts about me at certain flaming blogs. Days of posts about me after the word went out through certain Calvinistic chat rooms that I was leading my audience outside of accepted boundaries. Letters to publishers and my employer, and weirdness on comment threads where my name was invoked as “emerging” and “apostate.”

When I finally swore all this off, it wasn’t to become an Arminian, or a Catholic or a one man band. It was to get the heck away from whatever was/is going on among the newly energized reformation police.

More than once- more than a hundred times- I thought to myself: “Is it just me?” Am I the only one who is experiencing as much fundamentalism as reformation here? And isn’t that just wrong?

Well apparently I’m not as crazy as some of you thought:

One of my favorite Reformed theologians is Michael Horton. We don’t agree on theology but I like this guy and I like to read his stuff. Michael recently wrote a piece that uses a different image than the big tent image above. He says evangelicalism is like the village green of early American communities. It was where folks, all folks, gathered to chat and share commonalities. He says evangelicalism is the village green but evangelicalism is not the church. Churches have confessions, and his confession is Reformed. He says we need to worship in our churches and that the village green is not enough; it is where we join with Christians most like us. The key point I make here is the distinction between being evangelical and being Reformed. Michael Horton, I am assuming, thinks the best form of evangelicalism is Reformed; and he probably thinks Arminians and Anabaptists are wrong at some important points. Fine. (I think the same of Reformed, and I think they are sometimes wrong at central points.) But Michael Horton knows that a local church (or denomination) is not the village green. I agree with him 100%.

But … and here’s our problem…

The NeoReformed, for a variety of reasons, some of them good, don’t recognize that evangelicalism as a village green. Instead, they want to build a gate at the gate-less village green and require Reformed confessions and credentials to enter onto the village green. Put differently, they think the only legitimate and the only faithful evangelicals are Reformed. Really Reformed. In other words, they are “confessing” evangelicals. The only true evangelical is a Reformed evangelical. They are more than happy to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn’t believe in classic Reformed doctrines, like double predestination. The palpable observation here is that many of us think the NeoReformed are as attached to Tradition (read Westminster etc) as they are to sola scriptura.

In effect, the NeoReformed are a new form of Fundamentalism, so one might describe them accurately as the NeoFundamentalists. Which means they seem to need a trend or an opponent upon whom they can vent their frustrations (see Rene Girard). This results in two clear traits: the exaltation of some peripheral doctrine to central status and the demonization of a person. The goal in such cases seems to be to win at all costs.

I close with this:

I recently wrote to a friend of mine, a Reformed theologian, and described what is the essence of this post and this is what he wrote back:

The problem, as I see it is these, whom you are calling neoreformed, are to me simply the old fundamentalists in nicer clothes with better vocabularies. They are just as mean-spirited, just as graceless, and just as exclusive. I believe that the fundamentalism of my youth was harmful to the gospel. I believe that anyone who refuses to come out of his “room” (confessional church) and into the hall of “mere Christianity”, to use Lewis’s term, is doomed to a narrow and problematic exegesis of the text. Who is going to tell us that we are wrong if we only stay in our room and speak to people who agree with us all the time?

That’s most of Scot Mcknight’s new post at Jesus Creed, first in a series on the “Neo-Reformed.” (You can find them in the Jesus Creed archives—Feb. 16, 18, 2009.)

Call ’em what you want. I’ve been saying this for three years now: In many places, it’s fundamentalism as much as it’s Calvinism. In fact, one of the worst internet tomato tosses I ever received was when I said the spirit of Jack Hyles was doing just fine among quite a few of the internet Calvinists.

Hey, I know a lot of Calvinistic good guys, and I know some of the neo-Reformed who are the best pastors/missionaries I could point at today. But the internet reformed have a tendency to ignore this issue of their own narrowing definition of evangelical and their increasing similarity to fundamentalism. If you don’t believe it, go to a popular reformed website in the neighborhood and say, “Many of the continental reformed would have found Answers in Genesis embarrassing.” Then watch what happens.

No, Scot is right, and it didn’t take a seminary professor to see it. Dress codes. Young earth creationism. Gothardite approaches to rules. Authoritarianism. Movies are evil and away we go. Find me a Rook deck.

Do I want to discourage anyone out of Calvinism? No, I respect your journey. I think it has edges though; edges that can hurt without realizing it, and edges that need to be looked at, not overlooked.

I’m not looking for Lutherans to go “A-ha!” or revivalist Baptists to say “Exactly.” You’re all pretty dangerous too sometimes. I just hope that all of you who have entered into the burgeoning subculture of Calvinism will read what Scot is writing, disagree wherever you please, but THINK for a moment if he’s not right in the main. That would be good.

Listen: you either see it/experience it or you don’t. Plenty of the reformed have no idea what Scot is talking about because where they sit, it isn’t happening. But are they aware of the web sites, churches and ministries where it IS happening? I believe so, and at that point, I don’t understand.

You want complementarianism to basically be essential to the Gospel, a la Driscoll? Fine. You believe any views of sovereignty that weren’t copied from Edwards are open theism? Fine. You believe anyone who benefits from The Shack is a new ager? Fine.

I think the whole story here is what I said when I wrote Evangelical Collapse: the neo-reformed will be one of the communities left when the big tent collapses, and they are going to proclaim their much smaller tent, the NEW tent. Make of it what you will.

Comments

  1. Why is neoicalvinism important? Sorry, but this whole discussion is inane.

    • Sorry it’s not your cup of tea, Vern. Our examination of the “New Calvinists” is designed to give people a chance to discuss a movement that has grown significantly in the past few years. Scot McKnight called it one of the three strongest movements to emerge out of the old neo-evangelical coalition. Evangelicalism is at a change of generations here and it is of great interest to those of us who care about the church to discuss where it might be going.

      • I almost want to agree with Vern. I understand the importance, which is why I force my self to read these posts about a movement I don’t care much for.
        I studied under Rod Rosenbladt. I love that man and admire his ability to be charitable to the reformed. I try to emulate that at times. But normally reading reformed materials just torks me. I have some good discussions over beer, scotch or whatever with reformed folks. But I think they just miss it. I read their books and sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder if they aren’t being just patently dishonest.
        Don’t get me wrong, I have the same sort of disdain for Arminian theology. I don’t like that anymore than a Calvinist, maybe even less. But I see them as both being reformed. From my Lutheran perspective they have more in common than they have any differences worth arguing about.
        Yet I understand the reasons for studying this movement for anyone who has an interest in the religious trends of America. So I applaud you for running these articles, even if the subject matter is a bit tedious for me to work through.
        That said, I watch this “evangelical” world and it looks like the people play a ping pong game with their souls. Calvin serves Arminius serves back, and the evangelicals seem to think the answers they are looking for have to be found among one of these two theologians because there are no others. Than Arminius serves and it bounces off the left side of the table and the souls find themselves in the Roman Catholic church, or abandoning Christianity all together, maybe it bounces of the right side of the table and they go Eastern Orthodox, yet they rarely seem to be quite happy with those theologies either, just tired of the ping pong game.
        Well it is frustrating for a Lutheran to watch. Most of the time though Calvin has poisoned them on Luther making every one think they were one in the same. They weren’t.
        Perhaps, Chaplain Mike, you can talk about your journey and why you ended up Lutheran or at least in a Lutheran church after all this is done. Or maybe just explore options those who follow these three movements of the post evangelical wilderness might be missing all together?

        • “Well it is frustrating for a Lutheran to watch. Most of the time though Calvin has poisoned them on Luther making every one think they were one in the same.”
          **I thought I was the only one who was felt this way.** (From me, a bound will, sinner, and narcissist)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Our examination of the “New Calvinists” is designed to give people a chance to discuss a movement that has grown significantly in the past few years.

        According to my writing partner (who’s recently had to deal with young cage-phase Hyper-Calvinists), it’s not only growing but trying to throw its weight around HARD as it grows.

        And the Extreme Predestination and Extreme Literalism (and the attitudes and side effects that flow from both) has too many similarities to contemporary Extreme Islam.

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      Why is it unimportant? It represent a large and growing piece of American Evangelicalism.

      The discussion started with talking about the 3 streams (as Chaplain Mike saw them) of a “post-Evangelicalism”… The Emerging Church, The Ancient-Future, and the Neo-Reformed.

      If you think the discussion is inane, why are you reading and commenting?

      • From an infrequent commentator here…

        I agree, this is an important discussion. Whether or not you agree with Calvinism (I personally don’t) in any form — classic or neo — it is often easy to confuse the theology proposed by Calvin (or his followers as I understand the progression) from the Gospel.

        At it’s best and worst, any system, whether it be Calvinism, “Arminian, or Catholic or a one man band” (MS) is our way of trying to explain how God works in the world around us.

        It is a danger, however, to put God into our [name your system] box and refuse to believe God works outside that box. We then start thinking our God actually fits in the box instead of believing that maybe our box is too small or the wrong shape.

      • Why am I reading it? To get information. If I disagree am I banned from comment? If one takes the Bible literally does one follow the Jewish health laws, does one go to church on Saturday, does one believe in stoning sinners? Jesus said if you love me keep my commandments. When asked which one was most important, He said love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. That is what is important. Some discussion reminds me of the old arguement, How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin.

        • Vern, like I said before, I’m glad you’re participating even if this particular series isn’t your cup of tea.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And while the theology gets parsed letter-by-letter and the anathemas fly about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, pastors’ widows still end up eating out of dumpsters.

  2. I say Amen and Amen to Scots post!

  3. I think Michael spent too much time on the internet. The Calvinist resurgence (labeled here the “NeoReformed movement”) is happening much more in churches, on college and seminary campuses, and in publishing houses than it is on blogs and websites. There is no reason to assume that ungracious bloggers represent the movement as a whole.

    Justin Taylor nailed Scot McKnight on this one.

    • Aaron, you are kidding, right?

      Michael was in the midst of the Calvinist battles within the SBC and took some very personal hits on this.

      As for Scot, the flak he has received for befriending and trying to guide many in the “emerging” movement to a more biblical and mature approach has come hot and heavy from the reformed types. And by the way, he is on a college campus every week. He told me personally that he has to speak to students influenced by TNC all the time.

      • No, I’m not kidding. Michael had a tendency to paint everything with a broad brush (evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and Calvinism). He was prone to projecting his personal experiences onto these movements as a whole. There is a whole wide world out there in these movements that has nothing personal against Michael Spencer.

        Of course there are a lot of students influenced by TNC on college campuses. That was one of my points. Does Scot simply assume that all of these students have been contaminated by a narrow-minded, blog-driven, graceless Christianity?

        Mike, you have to come to Jackson, TN, some time. Come down here and visit Cornerstone Community Church and Union University. Spend some time with some real gospel-centered, Christ-loving, gracious, evangelical-fundamental-Calvinist-complementarians who are the most loving people you will ever meet.

        • Listen: you either see it/experience it or you don’t. Plenty of the reformed have no idea what Scot is talking about because where they sit, it isn’t happening.

          from where I sit, Aaron, it looks like Spencer already covered the base you are talking about. I read him to say: “Hey, even if it’s NOT happening where you are, there are plenty of places where it is, and you should be aware of it.” I don’t read him as going beyond that.

          Then again, it’s early, and I”m not even 1/3 thru my coffee yet…..

          Pax
          Greg R

        • Hey Aaron,

          I graduated from Union last Spring. I know Dr. Van Nest and the Cornerstone Community Church. You would do very well to listen to the criticisms of the Imonk.

          Union is a great school with a great student body but the neo-Calvinism is stifling. If you disagree with Piper, women in ministry, or think Puritan literature is not great, then you get the cold shoulder.

          There are also some extreme views and blindspots going on among the Piper/Driscoll fanboys there. For example, there is a disconnect between personal holiness and theology. For some, being a good Christian simply means adhering to Neo-Calvinist beliefs. When Neo-Calvinist students have moral failings, they say it’s all about grace and find comfort (or personal guilt absolution) in the “perserverance of the saints” (can’t say “once saved, always saved” – that sounds too much like revivalist Baptists). But what about transforming grace? As Paul says in Romans 7, are we still slaves to sin? The lack of emphasis on personal holiness that I found was disturbing, to say the least.

          I found the same things to criticize among the Neo-Calvinist students and professors at Union that Imonk has pointed out. Don’t get mad – take the criticism, look at your own actions and thoughts, examine the attitudes of the communities that you participate in and be honest. Also, READ THE BIBLE. I got so sick of seeing students being able to quote the latest Neo-Calv. and then not know the scriptures. And I’m not talking about proof-texting – I’m talking about taking God’s story in; not letting God into your story but getting yourself into God’s story of redemption.

          • Brandon Lee says:

            I think JoshUM is right on. I spent 10 years at Southern Seminary where the movement was like a war engine steaming ahead with all sorts of absolutist type genres. I am so thankful for my education and time there..it is part of who I am, and a part of my story and journey…yet not where I am now.

        • Aaron, I appreciate and accept much of what you say. I know from experience that there are many “real gospel-centered, Christ-loving, gracious, evangelical-fundamental-Calvinist-complementarians who are the most loving people you will ever meet.” I just wrote an email to thank one of them the other day for his gracious spirit.

          There are also a lot of those kinds of grace-centered and gracious Christian people who do not subscribe to Reformed theology. And the record of many of the folks who are the public faces of TNC in denigrating them and dismissing them has not been pretty.

          If evangelical Christianity is going to thrive in the future, it will not be because one faction or another gains dominance. It will be when we who believe the Gospel and follow Jesus, together, build the kind of vibrant “village green” Michael Horton talked about, where we can accept one another as family while at the same time having serious discussions about our differences. To use C.S. Lewis’s similar illustration, TNC’s (and others) have to be willing to come out of their “room” once in awhile and talk to others in the “hallway.” Then we’ll truly be “Together for the Gospel.”

          As long as you have leading individual teachers and pastors setting the agenda by going to public conferences and saying things like (my particular view of) inerrancy is a watershed, or complementarianism or 6-day creationism is a watershed, you have automatically excluded a majority of the church in favor of your little room.

          You see, it’s the “watershed” word and attitude that’s the problem.

          • If ever I get the opportunity to do another Sunday school stint at my Vineyard, it might well be this post amplified to a 2 or 3 week lesson. Very well said (again), and we’ll be coming back to this song, doing stanzas 10,11, and 12…..because , as I think HUG put it, “the trolls are for the trolls, and they won’t be taken in…..” We need to get past this.

          • I agree that it’s important for ALL Christians to quit sniping at their brothers and sisters over secondary issues (although to do it without minimizing those issue more than is necessary as well)……

            But, as a Reformed believer, I feel like we’re kind of in the crosshairs a lot. Lots of stereotyping has been going on over here on this site for a few days now and I would just caution those who are not Reformed that the same things could be said about you all that you have been saying about what you consider to be “TNC”.

            The comments here have not all been seasoned with salt…..not by a long shot. Truth is, there are plenty of graceless Christians all along the doctrinal spectrum and not just on the Calvinist side of it……to our collective shame.

          • Mike, you wrote:

            “There are also a lot of those kinds of grace-centered and gracious Christian people who do not subscribe to Reformed theology. And the record of many of the folks who are the public faces of TNC in denigrating them and dismissing them has not been pretty.”

            I agree with the first sentence. But I must ask, who are these leaders of TNC who are out there denigrating these brothers and sisters? What record is this that you’re talking about?

            Remember, you said “public faces,” which would imply to me that you are talking about big name leaders, not mere bloggers.

        • My sister attended Union University for a couple of years. She made the mistake of getting pregnant outside of marriage. The staff members in whom she confided encouraged her to get an abortion and stay hush-hush about the whole thing. When she decided to keep the baby, she was strongly encouraged to leave.
          A couple of years ago, I was invited by the father of a friend of mine (an SBC pastor and Union professor) to speak to a class of seminary students about the home/simple church movement. Too be honest, I probably would have recieved a warmer welcome giving the same talk at a biker bar.
          Sure, they’re really nice people — as long as you live up to their expectations, maintain appearances, and, at least, pretend to agree with them.

          • I apologize, Aaron, for my comments above. Please forgive me. It’s just that your praise of the people at Union called up some really bad memories, and I found myself venting before I stopped and thought (and prayed) about it.

          • Ron P,

            I have no official affiliation with Union, but I do know a number of people who work there and/or go to school there. They are all stellar people who love the gospel. When I mentioned Union earlier I was thinking primarily about the people I know at my church. What you have said here is not reflective of them.

            I accept your apology.

  4. Dan Masshardt says:

    Yup. That attitude is widespread, in my experience. Granted, it is often more gracious than the blog commenters who are obnoxious (I find it’s the commentors more often than the actual bloggers), but at the end of the day, many of the enthusiastic Reformed feel that non-reformed Christians have missed something HUGE – not quite the gospel itself, but enough that there should be some distance.

    Any Arminians at Together for the Gospel? Isn’t that conference about how different perspectives can come together around the gospel? As long as the different perspectives are all Reformed. Desiring God conferences?

    I have much respect for Reformed theology, but the attitude is often there in some form, even among the gracious.

    • Dan Masshardt says:

      oh, and any Arminians blogging on the Gospel Coalition website? Is it really a coalition around the gospel, or around Reformed theology?

  5. A lot of people here not only have an allergic reaction to Calvinism (whether old style or the new) they just have a dislike for any type of conservative evangelicalism that makes certain demands on them – doctrinally or ethically. I bet any money if a conservative Lutheran, Methodist, or Pentecostal started writing posts here saying stuff like “All unrepentant homosexuals will not see heaven” or “All people who reject the full inspiration and authority of Scripture are unregenerate” you will have many people here pouncing on this person. It’s just amazes me some of the people who regularly post on iMonk. They just use the New Calvinism as another “beating boy” to take out their frustrations on a version of Christianity that takes Scripture very seriously (because they themselves do not).

    Thus, what I am seeing in some of the posts from participants in this series of articles on Calvinism is not specifically a bashing of Calvinism but a bashing of any Christianity that explicitly states that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation, that homosexuality is sin, that Scripture must be viewed as fully inspired and infallible in matters of doctrine and faith, and that the gospel is about God’s saving action by his grace alone but that it also makes serious demands on people or else they will not see heaven. Sometimes I am amazed how people come here claiming to be Christian and yet deny major tenets of the historic faith. That is what I mean by spiritual cowards – claiming to be followers of Christ and yet denying almost everything he and his disciples taught.

    • “I bet any money if a conservative Lutheran, Methodist, or Pentecostal started writing posts here saying stuff like “All unrepentant homosexuals will not see heaven” or “All people who reject the full inspiration and authority of Scripture are unregenerate” you will have many people here pouncing on this person.”

      umm, well yes. Exactly. I actually don’t really have a problem with Calvinism in and of itself. I think it has some problems as a doctrine, but I also think the alternatives have problems too. It’s all you wrote above that turns me away.

      Some of us believe that Jesus is it. Like actually it. And we react against those who would try to add in other beliefs as non-negotiables.

      And if I really were a spiritual coward I would just give a hearty amen to your post so I could be considered a part of your true believers club. You know, the ONLY ones who will be saved. Unfortunately, I have decided to make life a little more difficult for myself by being intellectually and spiritually honest with myself. Leaving things to rest in mystery doesn’t mean I reject God, it often means that I’m finally willing to let God be God and stop trying to do the job myself.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      “Sometimes I am amazed how people come here claiming to be Christian and yet deny major tenets of the historic faith. That is what I mean by spiritual cowards – claiming to be followers of Christ and yet denying almost everything he and his disciples taught”

      My Eastern Orthodox relatives would probably at least partly agree with that. 🙂

    • Buford Hollis says:

      One could, with more justice, call it “cowardice” to follow a God who consigns most of humanity to eternal damnation, just for the sake of one’s personal salvation. One could also call it (intellectual) cowardice to avoid engaging the challenges of historical / textual criticism, assuming one is capable. (Such critics certainly take scripture seriously, even if they approach it in a different way.)

      I am curious as to why you believe the things you listed. I suppose you will say they are in the Bible, but does the Bible actually declare that it is “infallible in matters of doctrine and faith”? (How could it, when each of its books were composed separately?)

      • Buford-

        I am not sure what your statement has anything to do with what Mark was saying (people pretending to be Christians but do not hold to certain beliefs), or what this post is about.

        Perhaps you can clarify on how they are tied together.

        • Buford Hollis says:

          Mark says that liberals are cowards for holding such beliefs (or, for not being willing to abandon the “Christian” label altogether), on the grounds that anyone departing from his version of Christianity must have ignoble motivations. Maybe the word “coward” sets me off more than it should, but I see a potential for cowardice in the conservative beliefs. How brave is it to accept without question everything one is told? (Abraham even had the cojones to argue with God himself!)

    • If that’s your response, Mark, you are certainly missing my point. I have already expressed appreciation for RT and its influence on me. What bothers me most is the exclusivism and dismissive attitude toward others.

      This is not true of everyone, for sure. It’s just that many of the primary leaders in the movement do portray it.

      You know a Calvinist that I respect? Steve Brown. Now there’s a guy with convictions, who will nevertheless speak with anyone courteously and without dismissing them. His best friend is Tony Campolo! He has people from all different perspectives on his radio program, and is not threatened by any of them. There’s an example of someone who really has a grasp on grace, who can therefore be gracious to others, even when they disagree with him.

      • and one of the best voices in radio.

      • could we , maybe, clone him while we have a president in office who’ll go with it ?? 🙂

        that kind of large heartedness is in very short supply in the body, IMO

      • Kenny Johnson says:

        Amen! I love Steve Brown and his show.

      • I have respect for Steve Brown too. I also don’t feel comfortable with the way some Calvinist Christians are exclusivistic and dismissive of other Christians who are not Calvinist even though they hold to the fundamentals of the faith and have a very high view of Scripture (i.e., Lutherans, Wesleyans, Adrian Rogers types, etc.). Some of them bash other evangelicals not knowing that they are bashing their spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, even though they differ on TULIP (as you can see, I am quite ecumenical in my beliefs). Thus, I agree with you on that.

        My problem with some people who regularly post on iMonk is how they can claim to be followers of Christ (even the Christian faith in general) and hold to aberrant theologocal views unacceptable by almost all evangelicals of all denominational/theological stripes. Thinking that “alternative lifestyles” is not sin, thinking that the historic-critical method of interpretation is the best way to go, that verbal-plenary inspiration is an outdated fundie doctrine, that the gospel is equal to leftist social justice, and that Jesus Christ is just one of several paths to heaven – people who embrace these types of views and still claiming to be Christians. These are the spiritual cowards and coming here professing to be Christians.

        Honestly, look within yourselves. I bet you reject many of the things that evangelicals (not only Calvinists) hold dearly because the truths that they promote (which are derived from Scripture) make you feel uncomfortable and challenge your way of life, philosophy, and perception of life. But again, unregenerate sinners always reject the things of God when it doesn’t fit their own life paradigms. Unless you call yourself a non-Christian, you’re a spiritual coward if you profess to be a Christian and reject many of the things that the historic Christian faith has always held to be essential to the faith.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Thinking that “alternative lifestyles” is not sin, thinking that the historic-critical method of interpretation is the best way to go, that verbal-plenary inspiration is an outdated fundie doctrine, that the gospel is equal to leftist social justice, and that Jesus Christ is just one of several paths to heaven…

          You’re slipping, Mark.

          You forgot Abortion and Evolution.

        • Mark, that’s right on the borderline, and probably seeping over it.

          There is something you need to accept as well. Please read carefully—

          IM is not a church, and I am not its pastor. There is no group of people that has “joined” IM and covenanted together to uphold certain beliefs and promote them through this site. This is a place for open discussion, and a wide variety of views appears here. Every single one of us may wince on occasion when we hear a commenter’s opinion. That’s OK. IM is not a place where people come to “escape the world” and hear only the things they agree with. Everyone knows where I stand because I write regularly and tell you. If you have any questions, you can go to the FAQ/RULES link and find it spelled out. If you disagree with something that is said, you have every right to engage in spirited debate about it. But when you do, I want you to imagine that you are sitting in a room with a group of people around tables talking. Don’t make a scene here or start accusing people of heresy or saying they are going to hell if that is something you would hesitate to do in a public venue.

          Got it?

        • “how they can claim to be followers of Christ (even the Christian faith in general) and hold to aberrant theologocal views unacceptable by almost all evangelicals of all denominational/theological stripes.”

          What do you consider essential beliefs for Christians?

        • It has to be the height of irony that someone only going by a first name in a blog comments section could with a straight face actually accuse anyone of being a “spiritual coward”…

        • Is it really thinking things like “alternative lifestyles” are not sin? Or is it being willing to be honest about believing that they are sin without shoving it in people’s face all the time?

          I have had many gay friends, they knew that I thought their lifestyle was sinful (although no more sinful than any other person’s outside of Christ) but they also knew that I did not condemn them as a person because of their lifestyle. In other words when one of them said” I really need to work on not being angry and mean to my partner” my reaction was not ” You need to give up your partner because that’s sin” but ” Yes, being angry is wrong and I will help/pray for you in that.”

          I believe that the Holy Spirit was bringing conviction in an area and that I needed to support his work, not try to be Him. Interestingly enough several of those have moved back toward Christianity and are even moving away from a lesbian/gay lifestyle. They were able to listen to the Gospel because they were being treated as adversaries, but as human beings created by God and loved by Him through His people.

          Kyndra

      • I downloaded some of his lectures at RTS from iTunes U, and enjoyed every minute of it. Yep, he’s Reformed, alright, and yes, I’m a Methodist, but that’s my brother, alright. I’d pay tuition in a heartbeat to take a class with him. 🙂

    • I bet any money if a conservative Lutheran, Methodist, or Pentecostal started writing posts here saying stuff like “All unrepentant homosexuals will not see heaven” or “All people who reject the full inspiration and authority of Scripture are unregenerate” you will have many people here pouncing on this person.

      That’s probably a good bet, although, I don’t know that disagreeing with someone is the same as “pouncing”. Anyway, I would disagree with anyone who adds extra requirements on top of the Gospel. I don’t see Jesus saying anything about how a person views the inspiration and authority of Scripture in relating to entering the Kingdom. As far as unrepentant homosexuals, how are they any different than unrepentant gossips or gluttons? As others have stated, I find it more cowardly to make Jesus’ words more about others than about me. I have faith enough to believe that Jesus knows to deal with supposedly unrepentant people who want to follow Him.

      • Then perhaps you should 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

        • Actually, for that passage to make sense, you have to include verses 10 & 11 with it as well.

          9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

          The problem Paul is talking isn’t so much that the Corinthians will “lose their salvation”, but rather that they are living like people they no longer are. The key is where he says, “And that is what some of you were.” The reality now is that they “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” So when Christians sin, they are in fact, denying who they truly are.

          • Blam! Nailed it. Sinning saints, not sinner-saints. One nature, one identity. When God made us a new creation, he spoke, and therefore it was. Is this not the essential core of monergism?

          • Right. That is what some of the Corinthian believers WERE (I like the way the HCSB translation puts it: “And some of you used to be like this”). The point Paul is making here is that it is impossible for a truly regenerate, justified, saved person to continue walking in those sins listed in verses 9-10. He did not say that it is impossible for a true Christian to occasionally lapse into those sins, but he did say it is impossible by using the past tense in verses 10-11. In other words, Paul is saying that if a person claims to be a Christian yet continues to practice those sins above they will not enter heaven because their regeneration is a sham. They not only deny who they are, they clearly demonstrate that they are unredeemed. Only a person who doesn’t care about true Christian virtues and ethics (and the consequences to salvation) would twist that passage around to say that a person can claim to be a Christian and continue to commit those sins without repentance.

          • Paul is saying that if a person claims to be a Christian yet continues to practice those sins above they will not enter heaven because their regeneration is a sham.

            You are reading it as a cause and effect statement, but I simply don’t think that’s what Paul is getting at. I don’t he’s telling the Corinthians to “turn or burn”. I think he’s reminding them of who they are. They have been changed, and their lives need to catch up with that fact.

            Otherwise, at what point does struggling with a certain sin become habitual sin for which one demonstrates he’s not saved or loses his salvation. I certainly do not want to try to draw that line. I know that I must entrust myself to God’s mercy everyday.

            I’d recommend N.T. Wright’s new book, After You Believe for a good discussion on Christian ethics.

    • A lot of people here not only have an allergic reaction to Calvinism (whether old style or the new)

      And some who have been exposed to the more virulent strains have been effectively inoculated against it. Rabid anythingness tends to have that effect. Only the rabid one doesn’t see him or herself as being that way and is puzzled as to why people shy or run away from him or her. Which only increases his or her barking or foaming at the mouth.

      Flies. Vinegar. Honey.

      To win some be winsome. 1 Cor 9:19-23

    • Which one of these things is not like the others?

      – Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation
      – Homosexuality is sin
      – Scripture is fully inspired and infallible
      – The gospel is about God’s saving action by his grace alone

      Pretty much, when anyone plays the homosexuality card without also mentioning greed, war, lying or any number of other sins of larger magnitude, I stop believing the post is about theology at all.

      Ignoring pervasive, societal outright disobedience to the Word in order to focus on sins committed by a targeted group of people is really just looking for a group to bully.

      • Chris Moellering says:

        “Ignoring pervasive, societal outright disobedience to the Word in order to focus on sins committed by a targeted group of people is really just looking for a group to bully.”

        I agree. (Now, I may disagree about war) but yes. Let’s get our over-wieght gossiping selves together for a potluck and pig out after a good gay-bashing sermon. I have no tolerance for that anymore.

      • Jurrt wrote: “Pretty much, when anyone plays the homosexuality card without also mentioning greed, war, lying or any number of other sins of larger magnitude, I stop believing the post is about theology at all.”

        Amen to that. Has anyone ever heard a pastor preach about the sin of gluttony to his/her congregation of overweight pew-sitters? (And if you go to church in America, my guess half your congregation falls into that category.) Until he does so, maybe he should lay off the sermons about the sin of homosexuality.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Remember, the Unpardonable Sin is always “Whatever YOU do that I don’t.”

          It’s always the OTHER guy’s sins that Especially Offend God.

      • Good call, Jurrt.

      • “…. pervasive, societal outright disobedience to the Word …”

        Sounds aweful fundamentalist to me. Words like obedience sound good because it’s another litmus test for who’s in and who’s out. The gospels teach through wisdom and love and are not meant to enslave through authoratative hierarchy.

  6. Steve Skinner says:

    I have to say that reformed folks can be especially vicious to the “unenlightened.” As a pastor in Texas, we were working our way through the doctrines of grace, when the reformed paratroopers landed in our congregation and with Borg-like efficiency attempted to assimilate the uninitiated! It is amazing how young calvinists lack the fundamental wisdom to keep first things first. I dropped out of the founders movement, when the mean-spiritedness became more Pharisaical than Christlike. God help protect us from “your followers!”

  7. As a Lutheran, I’ve found doctrine (in our case the Book of Concord) prevents me from building a God in my image and very healthy in the end.

    • …unfortunately, it just has not been so universally effective with all Lutherans. Calvinists would claim the same about their Tulip, confessions, and the Institutes: God as He is not as I prefer. God as the Bible declares and not as I interpret. I think sometimes we can become arrogant when we suppose that since our intentions are pure (truly knowing God) then therefore our exegesis and conclusions MUST be valid. But I think there are equally good intentioned seekers of God in the Reformed and Lutheran camps. We should all be willing to admit that as important as our doctrine is, it ain’t bulletproof. We still have much to learn from each other. Within monergistic orthodoxy, that is (don’t want to sound like a unitarian or something).

      • I should have qualified my comment. Previous to my reading of the Book of Concord, the “doctrine” that goes around Christian circles was constraining and at best scripture based on 1 verse or open to “new” revelation to my friends. Instead the Book of Concord allowed me to see how lots of theologians (not just Luther) assimilated scripture and how that interpretation has persisted throughout the last 500 years. As Luther would argue, it tied into the greater church for the previous 1500 years. I found that reading the Book of Concord more trustworthy than some new emergents take on the bible (how many can we possibly have in 5 years), the latest popular preacher (reformed, lutheran, evangelical), personality (Warren, T.Jones, etc). The depth of understanding regarding the following issues is profound: the sinfulness of man, the nature of works, and the cross.

        I was on the bandwagon of “doctrine” divides, therefore bad. Jumped off because I was confused and more often than not it was not healthy and not Cross focused. The passion of the early reformers is profound compared to the pop-culture books at “Family Christian Bookstore”.

  8. The series this week has been an essential discussion in the post evangelical wilderness. Like others in the discussion, although I don’t 100% agree on theological issues with Calvinists, I respect the theology. As it pertains to the post evangelical wilderness, this series of discussions has pointed out the dangers that so many have encountered. In the evangelical world, where anyone who has a strong and/or charismatic personality can start a new church and set up his own board of elders, the concept that “God is sovereign and chooses to delegate his authority to the pastor/elder of a local church” is dangerous. I have witnessed the problems with this concept at a very personal level, and have examples of it throughout the city I live in.

    • Chris Moellering says:

      True. Ecclisiology is important to counter the cult of personality. Not that it is a panacia by any means, though.

  9. Thank you for highlighting the problems with Calvinism – I hope more will be attune to them. I thought this Jesus creed article was also relevant http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2008/11/14/the-dark-side-of-sovereignty/.

    I was at a PCA church – so technically Calvinist and not neo-Calvinism. At first, it seemed like the church was a good fit for me – a analytical thinker – due to its stark differences with the fundamentalist S. Baptist churches of my childhood and emphasis on intellectual preaching/theology. No alter calls, yelling pastors, discussion of legalism at the pulpit, no need for a conversion “experience”. But still, this PCA church lacked the grace that I had been seeking all along. At our particular church, there just wasn’t any room to fit in if you didn’t agree with Calvinism, and little grace to realize that it wasn’t an essential. While the concept of Calvinism wasn’t preached from the pulpit, it formed the foundation, and once you learned about the essentials of Calvinism, you saw how it affected everything, from church ministries to family life. We stayed 3 years at this church, and I came in excited about Christianity, and left with an utterly severe faith crisis in which the concept of double predestination seemed so cruel that I was (and sometimes still am) considering leaving the faith and being an agnostic or atheist. Nowadays (and thankfully) I don’t really obsess over Calvinism anymore and am trying to refocus my attention to the “majors”, but it still bothers me. I’m often very open-minded, particularly when it comes to Christian theology – because I don’t believe theology can develop a strong enough theory to pronounce your theology is right and others as wrong. Thus, while I dislike Calvinism, I think that I should make room for the possibility that God could be like the one pictured by the Calvinists, and in trying to be open-minded (aspiring to be a “big tent” Christian), I continue to struggle with doubt about Christianity in general.

    • Before you abandon the Christian faith altogether, I would encourage you to spend a season focusing on the person of Jesus. Get a translation of the Bible you”re never read before and read through the four gospels — all the while trying to forget all the centuries of religious baggage that have been handed down to us. Just pretend they’re part of a book you dug up out of your back yard. Let Jesus argue for Himself. And spend some time in persistent prayer, give God permission to reveal Himself to you in any way He sees fit, and also spend some time just being quiet and giving Him a chance to communicate back in your direction. I also encourage you to try to find some good, unjudgemental Christian friends with whom you would feel safe talking about your doubts.
      Before I was a Christian, I was a hard-core nihilist, who regarded faith in anything as intellectual cowardice or weakness. What finally hooked me was, for the first time in my life, actually seeing Jesus in the lives of a group of Christian friends (who, thank God, took an interest in me) — which opened the door for God to make Himself real to me in variety of ways.
      If you’ve had it with organized Christianity, then I don’t blame you one bit. But, please, spend a little time trying to rediscover Jesus outside and independent of a religious context.

  10. Hmmm.

    I can see that he’s saying talking about in the Al Mohler/Phil Johnson brand of Calvinism.

    Not so much in the Tim Keller/Michael Horton brand of Reformed Faith.

    Perhaps it’s not so much the doctrine Calvinism that’s the problem, but the certain fundamentalist hyper-calvinists behind one side of it. It’s like mocking pentecostals for the likes of Benny Hinn.

    • I have come to believe that the problem is that if you are going to believe Calvinism, you must also accept some sort of presbytery model of governance. Calvinism almost never works with a baptist/congregational model.

      • Wasn’t Jonathan Edwards a congregationalist? And Spurgeon a Baptist? However, though their writings and preachings are historic and impacting, their ecclesiastical structures do seem to leave something lacking…. I believe Spurgeon’s church did not fare so well for a while after his tenure. And Congregationalism, the puritan Calvinistic kind of the English reformation, is all but dead in America today.

        Perhaps Calvinism can thrive in an Episcopal form of government?

        • David Morris says:

          “Perhaps Calvinism can thrive in an Episcopal form of government?” Well, you can definitely find plenty of Calvinist Anglicans (Stott, Packer and Wright come to mind, but going back further, JC Ryle and Cranmer too). The presbyterian model should work better than the “papacy of all pastors” model though. I think you have a problem if the elder board is rubber stamping the pastor.

          WA Criswell type polity mixed with Calvinism is a problem: “Lay leadership of the church is unbiblical when it weakens the pastor’s authority as ruler of the church…. A laity-led church will be a weak church anywhere on God’s earth. The pastor is ruler of the church. There is no other thing than that in the Bible.”. Argh!

        • I’m no Church historian, but the history of Presbyterians that I’ve read indicates that there was a rather fluid relationship between them and the Congregationalists during the colonial period. Edwards’ first church was a Presbyterian one in NYC.

    • Preston, I think you are on to something: I think it is a mindset that takes a firm conviction in a non-essential, and finds a bag of ready- mix quick set, stirs well, and proclaims to all: this is the way it is…..enter all ye who embrace orthodoxy and the real Jesus….

      I’m thinking it’s more about a need to be certain about everything, than it is one particular veiw or one particular theology

      Greg R

      • Chris Moellering says:

        I’m thinking it’s more about a need to be certain about everything, than it is one particular view or one particular theology

        Could be. The older I get, the less certain I am about a lot of things….

  11. Dan Allison says:

    Just let me preface by saying what a really great set of discussions have been posted here the last several weeks. Best reading I have ever found on the Internet!

    What I tell people is — “The Bible, when properly interpreted and understood, is ttustworthy and true.” Like NT Wright, I avoid the “i-words” — infallible, inerrant — because they tend to be code words that convey something more than they appear to convey. To say the Bible is “infallible” sounds like one is still in argument/rebellion against Roman Catholicism and their “infallible” authority, the Bishop of Rome. And “infallible ” almost inevitably means “literal in the most vulgar and pedestrian way,” leading to things like YEC, Christian Zionism, and oppression of women. God created poetry, symbol, and metaphor: He most certainly has the right to use them.

    Finally, can’t we all agree that NO system of theology — whether Calvinist, Arminian, Covenant, Dispensational, or whatever — is finally and fully exhaustive regarding God’s nature and richness? The history of the Church shows us that doctrinal imbalance always generates a balancing reaction, and that the pattern is cyclical. The deadened churches of the 1950s generated the charismatic renewal, which itself became unbalanced. The ultra-predominance of Arminianism generated the new Calvinism, which now seems becoming unbalanced.

    If I say “Jesus Christ is the answer,” does that make me a heretic? Heck, CS Lewis accepted evolution and believed the first eleven chapters of Genesis are mythology. Some may think Lewis is burning now in hell, but most of us doubt it. Discussions and diversity are great, but the obsession with getting little brownie points for doctrinal correctness shows the world a really terrible witness. I’m not waving any flags for anything or anyone except Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and glorified.

    • Christian Zionism? Do you mean dual covenant theology (Jews are still chosen but so are Christians)? The end times business that the Jews need to congregate in Israel and rebuild the 2nd temple so the end-times can get going? Or the concept of all the prophecies and rules regarding Israel in Scripture refer to the US? Or is this a new thing?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Usually it means “The end times business that the Jews need to congregate in Israel and rebuild the 2nd temple so the end-times can get going?”

        When I first experienced it during Hal Lindsay’s heyday back in the Seventies, I didn’t know the name. I called it “Anti-Semitic Zionism”.

        Because Anti-Semitic Zionists only care about Israelis or Jews as pieces to move around on their End Time Prophecy gameboard. Where Israel Has To Be Back in The Land purely to kick off Armageddon, where they will then be destroyed for Rejecting Christ. In the meantime, Israel is God’s Will and Can Do No Wrong (until they’ve outlived their usefulness in Prophecy after the Rapture, that is).

    • Chris Moellering says:

      AND Lewis smoked cigars and drank! AND he was an Anglican! GASP! That would get him on a fast train to hell in some churches I’ve been in over the years.

      I’ll contemplate that as I have a cigar and a drink with my Anglican buddy this weekend.

      Any system that creates litmus tests for who’s “in” and “out” that fall outside of the historic creeds, I am suspicious of. Likewise, anyone who takes serious issue with the hsitoric creeds, I’m suspicious of. Of course, I used to be non-creedal and suspicious of creeds! (Maybe I’m just suspicious?)

      • I find it interesting that hyper-calvinists embrace CS Lewis so much after reading his books. One of his arguments (can’t remember which) in Mere Christianity seems to rest on the assumption on free-will.

        Interestingly, in the Southern Baptist church of my childhood, no one ever recommended CS Lewis even when I started having doubts in my teens (20 years ago). I think Lewis would have likely been too “liberal”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The deadened churches of the 1950s generated the charismatic renewal, which itself became unbalanced.

      The 1950s as in The Mythic Godly Golden Age when America was Really a Christian Nation?

    • To Dan Allison: excellent coment you have written here! And I will be with you in: “I’m not waving any flags for anything or anyone except Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and glorified.”

  12. I like this paragragh…

    “The problem, as I see it is these, whom you are calling neoreformed, are to me simply the old fundamentalists in nicer clothes with better vocabularies. They are just as mean-spirited, just as graceless, and just as exclusive. I believe that the fundamentalism of my youth was harmful to the gospel. I believe that anyone who refuses to come out of his “room” (confessional church) and into the hall of “mere Christianity”, to use Lewis’s term, is doomed to a narrow and problematic exegesis of the text. Who is going to tell us that we are wrong if we only stay in our room and speak to people who agree with us all the time?”

    I encountered this in some of the evangelical ministries and churches I was involved with. Worse I got burned to the point where I no longer believe in God. What was grace for me? Privately confessing my sin and having in return a minister who derailed my career thinking it would be good to teach me a lesson. What did legalism create? An acountability partner who was deceit filled and lived a double life while I got hammered. Lesson I learned about modern evangelical Christianity is that to thrive in it you have to be dishonest, you have to be an actor, you have to be deceitful and lie.

    It’s better to have integrity as an agnostic than to be a reformed evangelical and be dishonest.

    And that doesn’t include having all the other crap forced down my throat. When I was an evangelcal I had a difficult time with end times stuff and the rapture. In my opinion I saw too many people caught up in it and forget about the day to day stuff which I thought was more important. I recall going to my old church where the pastor did a series on evangelical Christinaity and explained what orthodox Christian is, and how you have to accept xyz in order to be an evangelical Christian. Then he got into the pre-tribulation and rapture and I thought, “What the #$^% does this have to do with the daily Christian life?” What was more harmful was realizing that I couldn’t be a part of this faith anymore becuase I couldn’t accept that belief system. So it all had to go.

    Gotta love modern evangelical Christianity!!

    • Then he got into the pre-tribulation and rapture and I thought, “What the #$^% does this have to do with the daily Christian life?”

      Absolutely nothing.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Except being one of today’s Litmus Tests (along with YEC) of whether you were Really Truly Saved.

        • Maybe that’s because you have to believe in a pre-trib rapture before Jesus can get a lock on your position and beam you up. Unbelievers have weak signals, so they’d probably just get jumbled up and fried like those two guys in the first Star Trek movie.

  13. My problem with Reformed theology lies in it’s first principles, the primary ideas that shape its doctrines. The over arching idea or foundation for Calvinism is the sovereignty of God. This is a rather random starting point. While God is sovereign, what makes this a better starting point than God’s Holiness (Holiness Churches) or the person and work of the Holy Spirit (Charismatic Churches) or Man’s free will (Arminian Churches)? Islam starts with the sovereignty of God, and reaches different ends because they have different scriptures, but they do have some fascinating parallels with Calvinism in regards to predestination and election. When you start with God’s sovereignty you necessarily end up with convoluted ideas on election and predestination, trying to answer questions the Scriptures never give answers to. The overflow of this is all the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks who despair of their salvation and even of faith.

    (Warning: Shameless Plug Follows) Why not start with God’s revelation of Himself and His reconciling work in Jesus Christ as the First Principle in your theology? There is good Scriptural warrant to do so, and it results in an entirely different theological trajectory not bound by the twin horizons of Calvinism and Arminianism. This is what the Lutherans do and it results in a radically Christ centered, Gospel focused, and grace filled theology.

    That being said, no Church is perfect and we have our share of hypocrites, problems and scandals, but Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection is a lot better starting point than some disembodied attribute of God.

    • Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega and Center of what God wants to reveal to us about Himself?

      Not His “sovereignty”?

      A theology of Jesus instead of a theology of glory?

      Who’d a thunk it?

    • Amen. The point of the Gospel is… The Cross of Christ. Sure God is sovereign. But as soon as we start defining it, we are in territory that does not belong to us. Hence the type of speculation that Calvinists sometimes get into – internal covenants within the Trinity and all that. That is applying fallible human logic to truths outside of our Sapce-time dimension, and leads to all kinds of things like Double predestination etc etc. It leads to people unable to except, or to admit, mystery, because it limits their logic. Whereas the Cross brings us back to right here, me and my sin, and the eternal God who saves me in the work of our Lord. How glorious!

      • But it’s not just the Cross. It’s also the Incarnation and the Resurrection, and all that Christ is was and did before that and in what will come after that.

        It’s Christ in all that He is does has done and will do.

        It’s the Lord Jesus Christ All and in all.

        • Amen again 🙂

        • can I mention the Reign and Rule of God?

        • Eric-
          No one would argue that Christ accomplished eternity for us and Gods reign over us.

          Lutherans focus on the cross only and our receivership in the relationship, forgiveness of sins at the cross, with this reality as a gift brought to us through baptism, hearing the gospel, and communion. Gifts for a blind beggar. We focus on this reality as the concrete method of Gods revelation to us. We do not focus on Gods sovereignty because is it vague and not concrete to our limited, sinful minds. This is why week after week, sermon after sermon, it is about Christ on the cross for me, a sinner. These things are for certain and I’ll leave God and his sovereignty to him. As a lay person I see this as the essence of Lutheranism contrasted to Reformed traditions. Despite this contrast there is much similarity, most specifically is the Calvinist “depravity” and Luther’s the Bound Will. The Heidelberg Disputation/Theologian of the Cross certainly lays this out better than I have.

          • I meant to say “No one would argue that Christ did NOT accomplish eternity for us and Gods reign over us.”

          • Rob-

            But isn’t it possible that focusing exclusively or mainly on the Cross – i.e., the crucifixion/atonement – can lead to the neglect of other things having to do with salvation?

            E.g., while in our baptism we were buried with Christ, we were also raised with Him. Yes, He died for our sins, but He is now seated at the right hand of God, and He now continually intercedes for us from His throne of grace. It was not only when He was on the cross saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” that His grace and forgiveness were made available to us. It is because He is now THERE on the throne, having SAT DOWN and obtained eternal redemption, that we receive His grace and help in time of need. Grace is poured out and received from Christ’s heavenly reign and standing, not just from coming to the foot of the Cross.

            If you have died with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

            My apologies if I misunderstand what you are saying.

          • Eric W,
            I suppose all things are possible.
            But let me answer your question a bit more directly.
            I don’t think that if you examined Lutheran doctrine you would find us neglecting any aspect of our salvation. We certainly do not neglect the intercession of Christ on behalf of his church. Though we conceive of his sitting at the right hand of God quite differently than you do.
            But at a minimum when the cross is the focus of your theology at least you are focused on that which has accomplished our salvation. It is not without reason that Paul knew nothing among the Corinthians accept Christ and him crucified.
            When Christ says that the scriptures are about him in John 5:39, it is a good hint that maybe the sovereignty of God is a sub point.

        • wow EricW that is the it right there. Enough said.

          • EricW-
            I don’t disagree with you at all. What you said is well stated. You are not misunderstanding me. Focusing on the Cross makes the consequences of the Cross realized, not diminish. I’m sure we both agree. Its like a more thorough understanding of our bound will/depravity in sin makes Christ’s grace more sweet and profound.

            Man, we could have a few beers together, I’m sure of that.

          • Actually, Rob, judging by the comments in this thread, I think we could all share a few beers and meals together with each other. Despite our differences – and some of them are great – I see all here wanting to know and serve and love the same God and same Lord by the same Spirit. I have way overposted in this thread (and I’m adding to my sins by writing this one), but I have learned a lot by reading this, regardless of where I stand or will stand wrt Neo-Calvinism and Neo-Calvinists.

            Faith, hope, love, peace

      • It’s Ephesians 1-3 and Colossians 1 and then when those words fail, it’s… Jesus.

    • Amen. And I’m not even a Lutheran. 🙂

  14. Whenever I read about Neo-This, Hyper-That, Extreme-Them, I get the impressions that Christians are struggling to avoid getting lost in the endless fields of open discussion. There is an incredible hunger for clarity, for an unmistakable place that is solid ground to stand on where other places are shifting sand, of the right place and not the wrong place.

    So much of the ecumenical movement, while quite honorable in its intentions and push for unity, seems to be deliberately vague on the majority of issues and ideas. Yes, Christians believe in God and Jesus, but when it comes down to actually living out those ideas in our daily lives, it ultimately comes down to “do what you will, but hurt no one.” Everything from doctrine to social issues seems considered “non-essential” and Christians wander through their faith non-committal. Nothing is clearly one way and not the other and all things seem awash in a grayed out unknown.

    Perhaps that is why Michael chose the idea of Internet Monk and the evangelical wilderness. It is the wandering Christian in a world where nothing is or can ever be certain save for love and suffering.

  15. Perhaps odd thoughts, but does “Calvinism” find an audience anywhere but among men who live in the US and W. Europe?

    • Yep. The non-white, non-male, non-American, non-Protestant Christian world has gotten on with their lives and their faith. We should pay attention. Way too much “theological garbage.”

    • I need to explore this more. From what I understand, Mahaney’s group has significant mission work in Latin America, with partner churches and so on.

      • My background is Hispanic, and I can see why the culture would be receptive to neo-calvinists as the culture is most definitely male-dominated at baseline.

      • Have a good friend church planting with the Reformed Presbyterians in Haiti.

        • In a few weeks, I hope to run a series on Global Christianity.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If you’re doing Global Christianity, IMonk used to warn about the Prosperity Gospel infecting Third World churches but never went into much detail on it.

          • A friend recently got back from a trip to Uganda (I think), doing some teaching with a missionary organization. He said the Anglican Church is the big thing there (though it’s more like an Evangelical church than the Anglican churches here), but he also said the students shared about the huge tribalism issues that trump Christian unity even in the same church. He was teaching about conflict resolution and it seems that it may be an all but impossible thing to achieve because of the tribal things. In other words, Christianity in that country is a lot different than its expressions here, and the issues are different, too. He also said that the beliefs of many border on heretical (he’s a big fan of the Church Fathers and couldn’t believe some of the things he heard they believe compared to Orthodox Trinitarian Christianity).

          • Besides possibly heretical understandings and teachings on the Trinity, there was/is also an overemphasis on OT law (perhaps like Christian Reconstructionism?). E.g., the recent news stories about death penalties for homosexuals. There does not seem to be an understanding of the time and place and purpose of the Law.

            So I hope the upcoming discussion of Global Christianity includes responses from people that further explain or describe these apparently great differences or peculiarities (vis-a-vis what we here do) of how the Gospel is brought to and taught to and accepted by and understood by and spread by these other cultures and peoples. In other words, simply saying that they’re Anglican or Charismatic/Pentecostal or Methodist or Orthodox or non-denominational may give a false impression of their similarity to American expressions of those same denominations.

          • It seems there may be some syncretism going on with other religions present in the different regions of Africa too. I’ve heard a bit out witches and curses and the necessary witch hunts (no, literally, witch hunts!) and curse lifters being part of some sorts of Christianity there.

          • I really look forward to this. I’ve been following as much of the Lausanne Conference prep as possible, which has been good for getting a feel of what the rest of The Church sees as important. It’s also a good reminder that our American/Western pet issues aren’t the only ones out there 🙂

            Any chance we’ll hear again from Dr. Soong-Chan Rah?

          • I hope to meet and talk with Dr. Rah about a contribution sometime.

    • Bufold Hollis says:

      And South Africa, of course

  16. “Many of the continental reformed would have found Answers in Genesis embarrassing.”

    That’s going up on my bedroom wall. Like, now.

  17. Can I offer a slight correction to a number of the comments? Please do not call these “New Calvinists” or Calvinistic Baptists, “Neo-Calvinists.” Historically, “neo-Calvinism” already exists as a movement that started in the late 19th, early 20th century in the Netherlands under the work of the Dutch Reformed theologian/politician Abraham Kuyper. As a movement it emphasized Christ’s Lordship over all creation and sought to promote Christian action in every area of life (e.g., Christian day schools, Christian political parties, etc.–unfortunately some crazies in recent years have taken up Kuyper as justification for strange political agendas… Ironically, Kuyper would be considered quite “liberal” by today’s standards (to see what I mean check out his small book, “The Problem of Poverty”)).

    Why am I pointing out this “name” thing? Well, as someone who is part of the Dutch Reformed community (CRCNA) and a Kuyperian (i.e., a “neo-Calvinist”), I find it difficult to talk to people about historic neo-Calvinism when they think I’m talking about Driscoll or Piper.

    I realize that in some ways I’m probably fighting a losing battle, but sometimes it’s helpful to keep our terms straight. Again to reiterate: historic “neo-Calvinism” has been around over 100 years and has been and continues to be influential in Dutch Reformed circles. North American institutions like Dordt College, Redeemer University College (Canada), The Institute for Christian Studies, and Calvin College have all been influenced more or less by historic neo-Calvinism.

    The irony of this confusion of terminology is immediately apparent when one realizes that neo-Calvinism is actually quite sympathetic with certain aspects of post-modernism. In fact, many of the critiques of modernism and its rationalistic epistemologies which get replayed again and again in emergent circles remind me of neo-Calvinist tirades against the Enlightenment.

    Alright, having stepped off my soapbox [grin], I’d like to make some observations regarding these recent posts on this “new Calvinism.”

    I completely understand the problems that have been referred to repeatedly (in both posts and comments). I came to Reformed Theology via the “new Calvinist” route over a decade ago. I look back on this time in my life with a great deal of regret. The whole thing had the sociological makeup of a cult (i.e., authority issues, shaming/shunning, we-alone-have-the-Truth, etc.). Doctrinally, it ended up in hyper-Calvinism and was a cruel sham of Christianity. Thankfully, I went to a neo-Calvinist institution for college and eventually ended up in the Christian Reformed Church. Now having completed seminary at the CRC’s denominational seminary (Calvin), I am amazed at the differences between the historic Reformed churches and this strange new phenomenon called the “New Calvinists.”

    People like Horton are right in their assessment. Classic Reformed theology includes a whole ethos, piety, and tradition which surrounds the so-called “Five Points.” I would actually argue that pulling Reformed soteriology out of its context inevitably distorts it. It would be like tearing the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation out of its liturgical and sacramental context, and jamming it into a Baptist’s understanding of the “ordinances.” It does not work. Transubstantiation in a Baptist context would not mean the same thing as it does in a Roman Catholic context.

    Moving back to Reformed theology, this Baptist appropriation of the 5 points does exactly the same thing. Without the surrounding Reformed doctrines of the covenants, the sacraments, the Church, etc., the 5 points can quickly become unbalanced and veer into fatalism. That’s why the 5 points are only part of our Reformed confessions. Within the CRC we hold to the Three Forms of Unity: The Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt (i.e., the 5 points). The Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism are warm, irenic documents (the latter being a compromise between Lutherans and Calvinists) which hold speculations about predestination in check. (In fairness, this has not always been the case. The Dutch Reformed also went through periods of morbid fascination with the subject.)

    In conclusion, while I can understand the whole “new Calvinist” thing, I am very thankful that I have found a home in an historic Reformed Church.

    • thanks for the clarifications. good points.

    • I’m with you on the Dutch Reformed vs. New Calvinist differences. I grew up Dutch Reformed (Reformed Church in America) and thought I was fairly understanding of Calvinism. Since our RCA church didn’t teach that Calvinism was the endgame, a lot of the TR blogospohere looked like it came from another planet. I’m still taken aback at the fundamentalist-tinged thinking that is occurring — conflating YE creationism or premillennialism with the gospel, moralism, fatalism … it was nothing like the Catechism and members classes I took.

  18. I spent 25+ years in a Reformed (Baptist) church. I came to a similar conclusion about that particular part of the Reformed spectrum; former fundamentalists who put on, in some respects a better theology, but never stopped being “fundamentalists”. You don’t see how bad it really is until you step away from it, and perhaps in the kind providence of God, find a church much better balanced and thus much more healthy.

    I have elsewhere pointed out to these brethern thier hesitancy to embrace their evangelical commonality with other traditions. I recognize there are other parts of the Reformed spectrum that do better at this then others. Unfortunatly, the part of the spectrum I was associated with did not…

    We are now in an Evangelical Baptist church. I am still a Calvinist,, but with a real skepticism of the “Reformed crusader” mentality. Oddly enough, there is more peace and unity in our current church with its broader theological spectrum then there was in our former church with its much more narrow theological definitions….

    I hope cultural “Evangelicalism” does collapes. Much of it deserves to. Theological Evangelicalism will not collapse, and for that I rejoice.

    Peace…