Carl Trueman thinks that we live in a time of exile (I generally agree but I think the conditions for it extend well beyond the sexual revolution — back to Peter’s first epistle):
The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.
For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.
Trueman also thinks that Reformed Protestantism has the spiritual resources for Christians facing exilic conditions, among them Psalm singing:
This recognition of exile and the hope we find in the Psalms permeate historical Reformed worship and theology in a way that is not so obvious in other Christian traditions, even Protestant ones. For example, the worship of the American Evangelical Church of the last few decades has been marked by what one might call an aesthetic of power and triumph. Praise bands perform in churches often built to look more like concert venues than traditional places of worship. Rock riffs and power chords set the musical tone. Songs speak of tearing down enemy strongholds. Christianity does, of course, point to triumph, but it is the triumph of resurrection, and resurrection presupposes prior suffering and death. An emphasis on triumph, often to the exclusion of lament, will not prepare people for life this side of resurrection glory. It will not prepare us for a life of exile. I fear we are laying the foundations for disillusionment and despair.
So much of this piece makes sense and I risk getting bloody (because no one wins an e-knife fight with Carl) only because of the way he handles the Puritans and Dutch. He glosses something that does not work out so well for Reformed Protestants who would live in exile:
It is this consciousness of civic responsibility—and of a firm place to stand in Christ—that frames Calvin’s Institutes and has served to make Reformed Christianity such a powerful force for change in history, from the Puritans to Abraham Kuyper. There have certainly been excesses in the history of the Reformed Church’s engagement with the civic sphere, but Reformed theology at its best is no clarion call for a religious war or a theocratic state. It is rather a call for responsible, godly citizenship.
The thing is, if you wanted examples of Calvinists in exile I wouldn’t turn to the Puritans of the Dutch who were actually part of colonizing efforts and did not live like exiles with native populations in North America or Africa. The Calvinists who did live like refugees were the Huguenots and the German Reformed. They dispersed to places like North America and persisted in their enclaves or assimilated. But the English (and Ulstermen and Scots) and Dutch were engaged in a form of conquest and it is that transformational part of the English Puritan, Scottish Presbyterian, and Dutch Calvinist enterprises that inspires modern-day U.S. Calvinists to think about either taking every square inch captive (for Christ, of course — no self-serving here) or reaffirming America’s Christian origins. (If you want to see one of the odder parts of German Reformed history in the U.S., think about the exilic experience of these folks in Iowa.)
Instead of the Abraham option (transformationalism) or the Benedict option (withdrawal), Samuel Goldman (American Conservative, July/Aug 2014) recommends the Jeremiah option (sorry, it’s behind a paywall):
First, internal exiles should resist the temptation to categorically resist the mainstream. That does not mean avoiding criticism. But it does mean criticism in the spirit of common peace rather than condemnation. . . .
Second, Jeremiah offers lessons about the organization of space. Even though they were settled as self-governing towns outside Babylon itself, God encourages the captives to conduct themselves as residents of that city, which implies physical integration. . . .
Finally, Jewish tradition provides a counterpoint to the dream of restoring sacred authority. At least in the diaspora, Jews have demanded the right to live as Jews — but not the imposition of Jewish laws or practices on others. MacIntyre [read Benedict option] evokes historical memories of Christendom that are deeply provocative to many good people, including Jews. The Jeremiah option, on the other hand, represents a commitment to pluralism: the only serious possibility in a secular age like ours.
We might even call this the Petrine option, were it not for the last millennium of popes who fought infidels, patronized artists, ruled Christendom, and lost power only to speak on every single issue known to political economy and foreign affairs. After all, it was Peter who called Christians strangers and aliens. Were the French and German Calvinists more an inspiration to contemporary Reformed Protestants, Carl’s call to living as exiles would find a receptive audience. As it is, the lure of domination, even though gussied up with the mantra of Christ’s Lordship, that is far more the norm than it should be because it is a whole lot more inspiring to be on the winning side of history. (Who roots for the Cubs?) And for that reason, Carl’s call will likely go unheeded.
Update: Here‘s additional support for considering the French Reformed instead of the English or Dutch.