Friday, April 25, 2014

Young, Restless, Reformed

Much has been written lately about the Young, Restless, Reformed (YRR) movement.  This is only appropriate seeing that Time magazine (a secular publication) actually identified the New Calvinism as one of the 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.  This huge wave of interest in a more God-centered theology is a wonderful thing to behold and to participate in.  Having just attended the bi-annual Together for the Gospel conference for a second time I am happy to say that their is much to rejoice over concerning the work of God in the life of the Bible-believing (evangelical) Church. 

This Reformed resurgence has brought about many edifying things. Such as more praise songs/hymns with precise, doctrinal lyrics that have a more Christ-honoring, gospel-centered bent to them.  A renewed zeal for personal evangelism and global missions.  Thousands and thousands of new titles or republished old books that are theologically astute and Word-centered.  Dozens of helpful preaching conferences for pastors and lay people alike.  A Scriptural understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood (YRR is a complementarian movement).  More attention given to the "Five Solas" of the Reformation (which summarize the biblical gospel).  A healthy appreciation of the past (in the form of gospel creeds and the many saints who have come before us); A renewed affection for Christ and for the grace of God in our redemption; and the list could go on and on.

Having said that, the YRR movement has also tracked in some unhealthy dirt from under its sneakers.  As many have already observed the YRR movement have at times promoted unbiblical and/or imbalanced aspects of doctrine and practice.   Since this is not a monolithic movement and because redeemed sinners are involved in this movement we should not be entirely shocked by this.  With that being noted, if Reformed pastors and churches are unwilling to address the dirt from under our own camps shoes the entire house is going to get really dirty along the way.  Author, Greg Dutcher, recently wrote a book titled, "Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology From the Inside." 

During the "Great Awakening" Jonathan Edwards was concerned about something similar in his own lifetime.  This godly concern for sound doctrine and holy living led him to write, Religious Affections.  In this helpful book Edwards points out the signs of true and false revival. 

In that vein, let me express my main concern for the Lord's Church as it relates to New Calvinism and the resurgence of Reformed theology among the YRR movement.  It appears to me that if someone preaches the gospel with a Reformed soteriology many in the Gospel Coalition circle seem to think that everything this pastor/author/leader writes and does must be ok (or at the very least should not be scrutinized). Recent examples of this include James MacDonald's "elephant room" debacle; Mark Driscoll's ongoing ministry issues, confusion surrounding 'free grace' sanctification, and Tim Keller's 400 page treatise on methodology and ecclesiology.  The cycle seems to go like this.  If you are a church leader who embraces the doctrines of grace (especially if you are a Calvinist pastor of a large church) you are one of us.  Since we are together for the gospel we must remain 'center bound' and not really critique one another ("after all, isn't that what killed the early Fundamentalist movement?").

Having recently read Pastor Jon Anderson's three part review  of Pastor Tim Keller's "Center Church" I kept saying to myself, "I cannot believe that (Calvinist) pastors and (Reformed) churches can read this book and conclude that Keller's methodology is apostolic/biblical." Yet the reality is that many pastors are trying to build the Lord's church using Keller's "Center Church" methodology (or something very similar). 

As I read Anderson's thorough review of Keller's very influential book and as I look around at the evangelical church in America I have drawn the following conclusion.  This is what happens when you take biblical, Calvinist soteriology and try and merge it with church growth (Hybels/Warren) methodology and then package your ecclesiology using a little bit of Emergent lingo. (I witnessed this strange merger of church growth methodology and Calvinistic soteriology first hand at a large church in Bothel, Washington).  Jon Anderson is right to sound the alarm (in love) here.  In short, Anderson suggests that Keller is trying to mix good oil with bad vinegar.  It is not only important that pastors get the central message right (per 1 Corinthians 1 and 2) we also need to build the Lord's Church with the right materials and build the right way (1 Corinthians 3-4).  Methodology and Ecclesiology are very important!