Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumo

Read Matt. 10:32-33 

This just in: the Bible answers the question about how converts in hostile countries are to bear witness to Christ: Publicly. That, at least, is what Jesus said in the first Gospel. 

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumbo and artful dodges—often asserted by Western theoreticians ensconced by comfortable tenure, grants, and libraries—we ought not forget that our Lord answers this question in red letters. To acknowledge Christ means to be unashamed of him. Jesus thought that would be good for us in every generation and in every culture, even if persecution occurred. Calvin said that, “there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness.”

– David Hall; A Place For Truth; “Update on the Insider Movement

Out with the new, in with the old.

Carl Trueman is his usual self about the latest in Driscoll-gate.  The article is not available, but I was able to capture one of the (many) money quotes. The article is now back up on First Things:

Mark Driscoll is one person, a uniquely talented individual. Yet he is also a function of structural problems within the new Reformed movement itself. Despite its distinct and in many ways sophisticated theology, the “young, restless, and reformed” movement has always been in some respects simply the latest manifestation of the weakest aspects of American Evangelicalism. It was, and is, a movement built on the power of a self-selected band of dynamic personalities, wonderful communicators, and talented preachers who have been marketed in a very attractive manner. Those things can all be great goods but when there is no real accountability involved, when financial arrangements are opaque in the extreme, and when personalities start to supplant the message, serious problems are never far away. 

The overall picture is one of disaster. Within the church, I suspect most pastors look on with horror at the amount of money involved in some of these projects and will turn away in disgust. Outside the church, people know sharp practice when they see it, no matter what the strict legality of such might be. The reputation of the church suffers, and sadly it does not suffer in this case unjustly.

As a former New Calvinist, I benefited greatly from men like Driscoll who gave me an entry level to Reformed theology, broadly understood.  I imagine there are many like me who were swayed from the siren calls of liberalism to a more firm doctrinal understanding of the Christian faith.  I am thankful for this.

But as the Reformed tradition began to encompass not just my theology but my worldview as well, I found that I was leaving behind (New) Calvinism through the Driscoll lens.  Now a confessional Presbyterian, I find myself at odds with some of the very teachings I would have defended not just a few years before.  Some of the church governance structures in congregations today just makes me shake my head, or worse.  The reformation of the church according to the Word of God was just for the sixteenth and seventeenth century.  As Reformed Protestants, this same principal matters just as much today.

Rather than defending “New” Calvinism, a movement which I fear will burn over far more than expected, I’ve run to the OLD Calvinism.  Where congregations may not flare up to thousands, but will faithfully preach the Word and administer the sacraments to the tens or dozens present.  Movements come and go, but the Church endures by the grace of God.

So like I said in the title, out with the new and in with the old.  Semper reformanda.

03/14/14 update: Added strike-through, link to First Things.

One of these days you’re gonna die laughing.

 If you’ve been to more than one church, I would be willing to bet at least one of these two churches has been an experience:

1. Stand up comedy with the Bible sprinkled on the side
2. A service so rigid that you were surprised it wasn’t a funeral

Amongst younger evangelicals the stand-up preaching may be the more regularly abused, but the latter is no better.  Afterall, even the first three letters of “funeral” spell something:

Dr. Barry York in The Humorless Pulpit  offers some very serious advice.  Very serious. Not tongue-in-cheek at all.

Some might try to say that since John Calvin himself taught the Psalter contains the whole range of human emotions, laughter would be included.   Then they might try to use that to justify using some humor when explaining a text of Scripture.  But Calvin did not mean this because laughing is not a godly but worldly emotion.  Laughter is not reverent.  Listen, I tell you that I am RR and sing the Psalms, so I know about not laughing in worship. Trust me.  

Others point to Luther’s use of sarcasm.  Do you really think it’s funny that he told Erasmus when they were discussing the serious subject of sin’s bondage that “Perhaps you want me to die of unrelieved boredom while you keep on talking”?  Or worse, when he told other opponents such things as “You are a toad eater,” or “I beg you put your glasses on your nose, or blow your nose a bit, to make your head lighter and the brain clearer,” or “For you are an excellent person, as skillful, clever, and versed in Holy Scripture as a cow in a walnut tree or a sow on a harp”?  Maybe those quotes are a bit funny and, sure, he helped start the Reformation, but again remember that Luther did not believe in the regulative principle…

…I’ve heard others try to be elegant in their defense of humor, such as saying humor can pop open the cork of truth and allow us to pour into downtrodden hearts the wine of gladness.  But I say our sermons need to be dry, free from the wine of wittiness.” 

 And while the church may have many adversaries seeking her destruction, I think its safe to say this bunch isn’t going to be kicking in our doors any time soon.

Add nicotine to hops.

One of the striking features of OPC and PCA General Assemblies — in this era when the fundamentalists did win the smoking wars — is the number of presbyters who light up all manner of tobacco products and seem to know that fellowship increases with the amount of second-hand smoke. 

That is a reason why I will take the Young Restless as more seriously Calvinistic (pardon the adverb) when they add nicotine to hops.

– Dr. D.G. Hart; Another Way to Tell the Difference between the Young Restless and Old Reformed

Genuinely concerned about the softening of our spines

Have we become this soft? I am trying to imagine previous generations of Christians complaining about their feelings being hurt. I am not trying to be glib, nor am I seeking to mock anyone. But I am genuinely concerned about the softening of our spines.  

I suppose we can ask Calvinists to be less confident in their doctrine or that they take a softer stand on Joel Osteen and substitutionary atonement. But then we would be robbing Calvinists of some of the fun in being a Calvinist. And who wants to be around an unhappy Calvinist? 

How about we do this: The next time a Calvinist acts like a horses rear end, forgive him. If he persists then confront him in a spirit of gentleness and continue to forgive him since the Lord has forgiven you so extravagantly. And I promise to do the same the next time I encounter a particularly nasty Arminian or stamp collector. 


– Pastor Todd Pruitt, “My Name Is Todd and Arminians Have Been Mean to Me

Complete and assured

“In a word, Christ’s work [on] the elect does not merely put them in a [savable] state, but purchases them for a complete and assured salvation.  To him who knows the depravity and bondage of his own heart, any [less] redemption than this would bring no comfort.” — R.L. Dabney, The Five Points of Calvinism

Certain to take place

“Says the Arminian: God certainly foresaw that Saul of Tarsus would believe and repent, and, therefore, elected him.  But I say, that if God certainly foresaw Saul’s faith, it must have been certain to take place, for the Omniscient cannot make mistakes.”  — R.L. Dabney, The Five Points of Calvinism