Engaged or Cohabiting

Thanks to Dustin who challenges the Old Life (okay mmmmeeeEEEE) manner of responding to The Gospel Coalition (aka Gospel Industrial Complex and related outlets) I have the opportunity to clarify this old Calvinist’s attitude to the Calvinist wannabes.

The problem with TGC is that is neither fish nor foul. It tries to do the gospel but it also adds a lot of clutter. So if I wanted to read a theological journal, TGC isn’t the place to go because it doesn’t go deep or academic (though it tries to strike a scholarly tone). And if I want to read about culture — TGC has channels from “Current Events” to “Arts and Culture” — why would I read their take before what I normally read — New Republic, New Yorker, American Conservative, and a host of blogs.

So the issue is that TGC doesn’t really investigate the nooks and crannies of theology and worship. How can it when it is a coalition of people in different communions? TGC accentuates the positive. In my mind that is overwhelmingly dull. TGC feels more like an organization interested in boundary maintenance and creating a feeling of belonging than in thinking challenging thoughts. The inspirational bits, whether from earnest piety or the fame of celebrity pastors, don’t overcome the predictability.

When it comes to arts, culture, current events, TGC seems to want to be neo-Calvinist but the New Calvinists haven’t done the intellectual heavy lifting that neo-Calvinist clearly have. As much as I take issue with the integralist aspirations of neo-Calvinists, they are smart, they know the importance of academic rigro rigor and are generally (in their intellectual demeanor) not interested in inspiring. They are especially proficient in philosophy. I don’t happen to believe that philosophy is the area of study to supply the foundation that gives coherence to all human activity — I don’t think such coherence is possible (hide human flourishing under a bushel? Yes!). But I give the neo-Calvinists credit for doing the hard intellectual labor.

I don’t see that kind of intellectual output — no offense — at TGC. Not to mention that I’m not sure what current events or the arts or food shopping on Sundays has to do with the gospel.

So TGC fails on two counts: they dabble at paleo-Calvinism; and they dabble at neo-Calvinism. If the allies want simply to be evangelical, fine. That is actually what they are — a repristination of the New Evangelicalism of Fuller, Christianity Today, and the National Association of Evangelicals minus the Wesleyans and Pentecostals. I’ve seen this stuff before. Not much to see and certainly nothing to take seriously.

In other words, I don’t engage TGC. I live in a world where TGC also lives. In some sense, we live together. But we don’t relate and we certainly don’t commune (or roll on Shomer Shabbos).

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98 thoughts on “Engaged or Cohabiting

  1. The price of entry to the TGC content provider club seems to be earnestness, filling certain demographic niches (age/race/chromosomes), demonstrated “success” by evangelical not-mega-but-pretty-good church standards, or attachment to various TGIC institutions — seminaries, denom agencies, publishers, etc. or even association with TGC bigs — think Bethany and TKNY. Look at the council and regular writers. And if you want to be a presby (OK, just PCA) and get some pop from TGC you had better be on the progressive or church-size margins of your denom.

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  2. “… So the issue is that TGC doesn’t really investigate the nooks and crannies of theology and worship. How can it when it is a coalition of people in different communions? …”

    This is the very same complaint I have with organizations like Neighborhood Bible Study (“Q-Place” I guess it’s called now). How is it possible to have any kind of meaningful exchange or discussion with people who range the gamut from RC’s to probably Muslims by now? Kinda like some of the stuff that gets thrown back and forth on this blog. One person I knew of who was a heavy proponent of Q-Place once told me of an unpleasant time when some Presbyterians were part of their study group. She said that any time a contentious issue arose, they’d point to their confessions instead of the Scriptures. Well, yeah. It’s all about unity, baby.

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  3. Isn’t it a membership requirement in the PCA & TGC to subscribe to World magazine? Or be a Bernie Sanders supporter? These two very different perspectives more that being “confessional” seem to be the ticket that gets a ride to the valley of influence. Of course I once heard a good lecture about the Myth of Influence.

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  4. So I could’ve been cohabiting while engaged? Lotta good that does me now. Though, as it regards TGC, neither opportunity is appealing. And if you stay too long cohabiting you get the same legal ramifications, plus all the illegitimate children. You know, like all the Baptists membered up in the PCA

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  5. Darryl, thanks for answering in as much detail as you did. I didn’t expect a blog post to come out of that comment thread and for that I’m appreciative. I don’t necessarily want to dispute the points you made in the article. Whether I agree wholeheartedly with every point you made makes no difference. You explained well why you don’t engage. I guess I’m personally thankful that Horton and others haven’t taken your approach. If they had, I might still be a Baptist right now. I was introduced to Horton through TGC, and devoured a large portion of his books. As I said before, he started me down the road to being Reformed. I would encourage you not to forget the human aspect in all of this. There are a lot of people “In the movement” who aren’t digging heels in the sand over various issues. I certainly wasn’t. I have a friend from the Baptist church I used to attend who is planning on going to Southern Seminary next year (I still have time to move him to the dark side). I suppose he would be classified as “in the movement”, but he is very receptive to the some of the different stuff we have read and discussed together. Again, I’m not suggesting that you stop criticizing, “Reformed” evangelicalism is embarrassing at times. I prefer regular cupcakes as opposed to gospel-centered cupcakes thank you. But I don’t think big Eva has shut off all conversation with confessionally Reformed folk. So if you won’t “engage” for the sake of the leaders, why not for the sake of the people?

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  6. Dustin,

    I think I know why you’re coming from. But Daryl’s saltiness attracted me to the blog because I felt I was going crazy for being mad that my (at the time) local PCA church was violating the regulative principle all the time while they worshiped Dr. Keller.

    And I taught out of Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology for Sunday School. >_>

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  7. Darryl, I understand that. Your interview with Dever on 9Marks back in the day was an example of the “engagement” I’m talking about (he tried to put you on the spot randomly about baptism which was funny). You don’t seem to find him insufferable. There are also a few bloggers who have publicly promoted your books on TGC (Deyoung more than once). Maybe some opportunity there? Maybe not. Ultimately I’m just saying if you have opportunities to expose more people to Reformed confessionalism in a way that doesn’t immediately turn them off it would be a positive thing. What that looks like for you given your unique voice in all of this, I’m not sure. Just throwing the idea out there because I think some people do listen and some might just change their mind.

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  8. “Myth of Influence”
    All this talk about culture building makes me think of the guys in the chess team arguing about whether they should ask out the blond or the red head cheerleader. I’m sure they could muster up very good reasons for their preference, but it doesn’t change the fact that they will spend prom playing WoW in their parents’ basements.

    I read the Atlantic, NR, NYRB, and check ALdaily regularly. Do you know who is not part of the conversation? Anyone part of TGC. Tyler Cowen, Andrew Sullivan, Rod Dreher, Peter Theil, Eugene Volokh, Josh Marshall, TaNehisi Coates, Paul Krugman, John McWhorter, David Brooks, and Judith Butler among others matter to our culture. What do they all have in common? They aren’t part of TGC, nor do they pay attention.

    Instead of taking shortcuts to transforming culture, perhaps they should focus on being the church, and let the other stuff follow from believers doing their thing on their own time.

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  9. SDB,

    I read the Atlantic, NR, NYRB, and check ALdaily regularly. Do you know who is not part of the conversation? Anyone part of TGC. Tyler Cowen, Andrew Sullivan, Rod Dreher, Peter Theil, Eugene Volokh, Josh Marshall, TaNehisi Coates, Paul Krugman, John McWhorter, David Brooks, and Judith Butler among others matter to our culture. What do they all have in common? They aren’t part of TGC, nor do they pay attention.

    Ding, Ding.

    As someone with a bit more of a transformationalist bent than a lot of you guys here, I have to say that some of the grandiose ideas of certain aspects of the movement are starting to grate on me. It’s one thing to believe that Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture. It’s quite another to have severe overestimation of how effective we are at doing so. I keep hearing about how Keller really understands city people, is on the cutting edge, etc. Maybe he is “cutting edge” for the PCA, but I don’t see any evidence whatsoever that he’s causing anything dramatic to happen in NYC. I’d be interested to know how many in his church are actually formerly unchurched people and how many were already evangelicals in New York or who are evangelicals who moved to New York and then started attending Redeemer. I suspect that the number of the latter is far greater than the former.

    I’m not trying to knock Keller or TGC. They do put out good stuff, at least on occasion. But there just seems to be this sense among them that people outside the TGC circle care about what they have to say. I just don’t see any evidence that the wider culture cares at all what they are saying, and the only ones who do care are the Reformedish or maybe some who are from an evangelical background and are just interested in the history/sociology of religion even though they are no longer professing Christians themselves.

    And the notion that Keller now has of changing the city if we can get 15 percent of the people in a good church is frankly laughable. I’m not expert on American history, but it seems to me that at least at one time in our history, you could argue that at least 15 percent of Americans were in relatively solid churches. But that didn’t stop all these cultural shifts that Redeemer-types want to reverse.

    Do people really believe this stuff?

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  10. Robert says you could argue that at least 15 percent of Americans were in relatively solid churches. But that didn’t stop all these cultural shifts that Redeemer-types want to reverse. Do people really believe this stuff?

    Well, no one should believe anymore that those ‘in relatively solid churches’ – I think you mean showing up to a church building on Sunday – necessarily, means all that much, right Robert?.

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  11. Ali,

    I’m just considering the broad sweep of American history. You don’t have Protestant liberalism until the late 19th century. So you have relatively good churches, I think, from circa 1800 or so to 1850, and I would imagine more than 15 percent of Americans attending. But the country still went to hell in a hand basket.

    Probably you had at least 15 percent of the population actually in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But things still went downhill. Keller is advocating getting 15 percent of New Yorkers saved or in good churches as a tipping point for transformation. Given the historical precedent I’ve noted, and I’m admittedly doing some conjecture, I don’t know why he thinks that will guarantee a renewal of NYC. That’s all.

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  12. It’s one thing to believe that Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture. It’s quite another to have severe overestimation of how effective we are at doing so.

    So, Robert, if the evidence as you rightly point out is weak, does that not perhaps give you pause to reassess the first “one thing”? Is it possible it’s a flawed presupposition that “Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture,” at least in the way the transformers suggest? Do you still hold out for there being a meaningful way for believers to transform culture? But if even the most earnest and vocal transformers themselves have no meaningful impact then maybe that way doesn’t actually exist and to hold out is religious fantasy?

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  13. @zrim
    “Is it possible it’s a flawed presupposition that “Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture,” at least in the way the transformers suggest? ”
    Do you mean to say that Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture that in different way than the transformers suggest? If so, what do you have in mind?

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  14. Zrim,

    So, Robert, if the evidence as you rightly point out is weak, does that not perhaps give you pause to reassess the first “one thing”? Is it possible it’s a flawed presupposition that “Christians have some sort of responsibility to engage/transform culture,” at least in the way the transformers suggest? Do you still hold out for there being a meaningful way for believers to transform culture? But if even the most earnest and vocal transformers themselves have no meaningful impact then maybe that way doesn’t actually exist and to hold out is religious fantasy?

    I would perhaps say that maybe we transform culture by not trying to do so…

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  15. sdb, in the world but not of it. Which seems like a mandate to engage but not transform.

    Robert, isn’t that like trying to pass a test without studying? How does something get accomplished without trying? I’ve heard this before: Western civilization came about by Christians not trying. Huh?

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  16. Maybe I’ll try this with the wife who wants me to clean the dishes after dinner: no, I’m a Christian, so I’ll sit here in the living room all night and they’ll get clean by tomorrow. Bam.

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  17. “…TGC seems to want to be neo-Calvinist but the New Calvinists haven’t done the intellectual heavy lifting that neo-Calvinist clearly have.”

    So New Calvinists and neo-Calvinist are two different categories? I must have missed the explanation on that. Can you clarify? Are you accentuating a nuance or was a typo?

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  18. Zrim,

    How does something get accomplished without trying? I’ve heard this before: Western civilization came about by Christians not trying. Huh?

    Doctrine of vocation. Each individual Christian seeks to bring glory to God in HIs vocation, not by developing a plan to make the nation Christian. Be the best accountant, teacher, doctor, whatever you can be. Strive for excellence. Do it to the glory of God.

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  19. Zrim,

    Not saying I have all the answers. But it seems better than saying something like “The church should have absolutely no opinion on whether or not abortion should be legal even though natural law and special revelation both outlaw murder.” Which often seems to be the case in these parts.

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  20. Robert, I’m not sure the doctrine of vocation was ever intended to be transformational as moderns understand that concept. Preservational maybe, but not transformational.

    But what happens when believers aren’t the best in their field? Seems to me there’s all lot of that, unbelievers far better than believers in myriad of tasks. Is this a source of Christian shame, a cultural or vocational variant of works-righteousness? But it seems like fostering humility and the ability to learn from unbelievers would be a better route.

    If churches should have and express formal political opinions then say again what the problem was with Protestant liberalism?

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  21. Zrim,

    But what happens when believers aren’t the best in their field? Seems to me there’s all lot of that, unbelievers far better than believers in myriad of tasks. Is this a source of Christian shame, a cultural or vocational variant of works-righteousness? But it seems like fostering humility and the ability to learn from unbelievers would be a better route.

    If you have a strong enough doctrine of common grace, this isn’t a problem. There’s nothing that says doing all to the glory of God means that believers have to be the best. They should strive to do their best according to what God has gifted them with, being willing to learn from the common-grace giftings and talents of other unbelievers. That’s part of doing all to the glory of God. God may have given Pagan Doctor Jim a better knowledge of the heart cavity than he has to me. If I’m a heart surgeon, I learn from pagan Doctor Jim, grateful that God has placed me in Jim’s orbit. I thank God that He has by his common grace granted such things to Him. But at the end of the day, God is more pleased with the efforts of the less-knowledgeable doctor than He is with Pagan Doctor Jim because Pagan Doctor Jim thumbs his nose at God or at least doesn’t acknowledge Him. Could this be an occasion for pride on the believer’s part. Sure. Anything can devolve into sin. But we don’t stop teaching that God has a special love for the elect that He doesn’t have for the non elect simply because the elect might get puffed up. So I’m not sure why thinking that God is more pleased with the average in talent doctor who seeks to give glory to God by doing His best and being thankful than God is with the exceptionally talented doctor who hates Him is inherently dangerous.

    And sure there have been transformationalists who may think that Christians have a corner on the market of truth, but there have been radical 2Kers who withdraw from society. We call them Anabaptists, right?

    It’s the incessant “Transformationalists are idiots” that I sometimes sense that grates on me. There seems to be lots of pride on the part of 2K people as well. Maybe we could just admit that perhaps we all have something to learn from another.

    If churches should have and express formal political opinions then say again what the problem was with Protestant liberalism?

    Protestant liberals lost the gospel. Protestant liberals said the gospel is creating the just utopia. The transformationalists I know say the gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, with His renewal having some implications for how we relate individually and corporately to the broader society.

    I’m not saying it’s easy. And if anything needs to happen, it is that Christians need to have a better sense of the fact that the post-Christian West simply doesn’t care much about what we say. A heavy dose of realism would be quite healthy. But it’s one thing to say that and another to say it is dumb for churches to try and help their people figure out how they can glorify God when they get elected to Congress, get certified as a teacher, or whatever else.

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  22. So I’m not sure why thinking that God is more pleased with the average in talent doctor who seeks to give glory to God by doing His best and being thankful than God is with the exceptionally talented doctor who hates Him is inherently dangerous.

    Who said that? Faith is what pleases God, which means that a mediocre accountant who believes will always please God and a star accountant who doesn’t won’t. It’s the transformer ethos that seems to suggest that a believer’s vocational performance plays into his pleasing of God in addition to his faith. Vocational version of faith-plus-works?

    …but there have been radical 2Kers who withdraw from society. We call them Anabaptists, right?

    No, ABs are 1kers.

    It’s the incessant “Transformationalists are idiots” that I sometimes sense that grates on me. There seems to be lots of pride on the part of 2K people as well. Maybe we could just admit that perhaps we all have something to learn from another.

    So saith Curt. But you said: “As someone with a bit more of a transformationalist bent than a lot of you guys here, I have to say that some of the grandiose ideas of certain aspects of the movement are starting to grate on me.” Grated if you do, grated if you don’t I guess. The diplomacy might feel good, but if it’s realism you want then I think you’ll actually have to pick a side.

    Protestant liberals lost the gospel. Protestant liberals said the gospel is creating the just utopia. The transformationalists I know say the gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, with His renewal having some implications for how we relate individually and corporately to the broader society.

    And how do you imagine they lost the gospel? Do you think that it’s possible to both retain the gospel and affirm cultural and political Christianity (per the transformers)? The liberals couldn’t do it. What makes transformers (and those influenced by them) think they can pull it off? Maybe Protestant liberalism serves as a lesson from which to learn what not to attempt than a challenge to improve upon? It could be that cultural and political Christianity is a variant of law-gospel confusion, a confusion that eventually swallows up the theological distinction.

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  23. Darryl, yeah I know that would never happen. I was simply pointing out that there are a host of confessionally reformed people who engage Big Eva in their own way (whether that be through Ligonier, TGC, or personal relationships) and I think that is a positive thing. If you wanted to, I’m sure you could do more to be an ambassador for reformed confessionalism among “reformed” evangelicalism. My burden has been to convince you that this is worthwhile. Trueman is an interesting case. He bashes Big Eva all day and Challies and TGC still link to his First Things articles. Not the type of behavior you would expect from a movement trying to censor a person. I understand that that they aren’t linking to posts directly critical of themselves, but you would think if they really wanted to “protect” their followers from him they would gouge out the eye.

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  24. Mark, New Calvinists are the Young restless submerged — Tim Keller plus John Piper equals Tim Challies.

    Neo-Calvinists are the Dutch-American Calvinists from whence transformationalism cometh.

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  25. Dustin, Challies links to everything — time management, paper cuts. It’s what aggregaters do.

    But I don’t see him on the speakers’ list for TGC. Why should he be (or me)? TGC is about uplift. They don’t want criticism. Boy is that a perilous way to operate.

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  26. Zrim,

    Who said that? Faith is what pleases God, which means that a mediocre accountant who believes will always please God and a star accountant who doesn’t won’t. It’s the transformer ethos that seems to suggest that a believer’s vocational performance plays into his pleasing of God in addition to his faith. Vocational version of faith-plus-works?

    Last I checked, the Reformed tradition believed that some will get more rewards than others, sure sounds like from one perspective some believers are more pleasing to God than others. Not in a judicial justification sense, of course, but there is a distribution of rewards according to efforts. Jesus said so. Paul says so. The Reformed tradition says so.

    The diplomacy might feel good, but if it’s realism you want then I think you’ll actually have to pick a side.

    The problem from my perspective is that both sides, taken to their extremes, miss the point. I mean the fact that we are literally having a conversation in which some seem to think the church should have no position on whether murder is illegal or not really speaks volumes to me about the weaknesses of taking 2K too far. I get not wanting to make the church the Republican or Democratic party. I don’t get the whole Natural Law is supposed to guide the state, Natural law says murder is wrong, but the church has no business reminding the state what natural law says about murder. Huh?

    And how do you imagine they lost the gospel? Do you think that it’s possible to both retain the gospel and affirm cultural and political Christianity (per the transformers)? The liberals couldn’t do it. What makes transformers (and those influenced by them) think they can pull it off? Maybe Protestant liberalism serves as a lesson from which to learn what not to attempt than a challenge to improve upon? It could be that cultural and political Christianity is a variant of law-gospel confusion, a confusion that eventually swallows up the theological distinction.

    That’s certainly a possible lesson. But the business of “Well, the Dutch—the transformationalists par excellence—couldn’t pull it off, therefore it must be impossible” is a bit like saying we should reject Reformed ecclesiology because every Reformed denomination seems to eventually go liberal. In fact, its like saying we should reject Christianity altogether because all Christian denominations—and that includes you, Roman Catholics—seem to drift toward outright apostasy if you give them enough time. And its not always because a church has spoken on political matters.

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  27. @Robert
    “But the business of “Well, the Dutch—the transformationalists par excellence—couldn’t pull it off, therefore it must be impossible” ”
    I’m not sure that’s the best way to take that example. I think the trend that we see over and over is that a quest for “cultural” relevance very quickly turns into compromise of the gospel. I don’t know of any counter examples – perhaps the most thoughtful approach was that taken by the Dutch, and we see how that turned out.

    I agree with your sentiment that, “…we transform culture by not trying to do so…”. Perhaps a better way to put it is that cultural transformation is a byproduct of the church doing what it is supposed to do. It isn’t our mission. It is akin to the observation that middle class people were much more likely to earn their home than poorer people, and homeownership conferred a lot of advantages to the middle class. Ergo, the thinking was that we should increase homeownership for the poor (Kemp et al. right?). The error of course is that homeownership is a benefit for people who possess certain traits like a reliable job, acceptance of delayed gratification, etc… simply making it easier for poor people to get into debt did not confer the advantages of homeownership that the middle class enjoyed – it was an albatross that made them worse off. The problem is that the causal arrow and conditions were mixed-up.

    I think the same is true for the transformationalists. They see that the spread of the church in its early days did a lot of good for that society ergo we should try to bring about similar benefial changes now. But it isn’t clear that it was Christianity per se that brought about all those changes, that even when it was that it was Christians trying to transform society (as opposed to trying to simply live out their faith in their own sphere), or that those beneficial changes occurred linearly in short order.

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  28. Robert, what is the vested interest for the church that anything is made illegal? And where is the line drawn? Political questions surrounding, say, immigration are just as important as those surrounding murder, yet I don’t hear any conservative Calvinists clamoring for THEE biblical answer to them so they can make sure governors know and execute them. And where’s the compelling NT precedent to do so? And what gives with thinking that natural law as God’s book is insufficient for his created order to use in order to govern itself?

    And you complain about 2k going too far? The analogy is quite a stretch. In fact, it makes very little sense at all. Who says to reject Reformed ecclesiology because every Reformed denom goes liberal? If anybody does I’m not sure what planet they’re on since plenty of Reformed denoms don’t. Still, if you think transformers can have their cake and eat it, ok. The point isn’t so much that it’s impossible but misguided, which is a point about faithfulness versus success.

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  29. Darryl, I agree, it is perilous. This quote from Trueman on his latest MOS post affirms my earlier point.

    “I was interviewed on Wednesday for a forthcoming movie about the New Calvinism. Afterwards, the interviewer commented on how kind and charitable my comments had been compared to my writings on the subject. I responded that that was of course the case – in the movie, I was speaking for and about the decent people who form the core of the movement, not those who lead it.”

    All I’m asking you to do is make a distinction between the leaders and the people. Have some compassion on the latter without lumping them in with the former. Find ways (even small ones) to be an ambassador of reformed theology to them. It is already being done by the most confessional among us, so it’s not impossible.

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  30. Dustin, Old Life is not password protected. Amazon sells my books. What must I do to be saved?

    But the distinction you make between leaders and followers is telling, no? Why don’t the leaders engage confessional Reformed? Why don’t they respond to criticisms? They don’t. They won’t jeopardize market share.

    That’s not very theological or pastoral (or even intellectual).

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  31. True, they don’t satisfactorily engage confessionally reformed. But I disagree with you. More than one outlet exposes their people to Trueman. Godfrey isn’t banned from Ligonier. Fesko and Johnson are on good enough terms to post some articles. Horton is all over the place and gets away with writing entire books to correct aspects of the movement. Maybe it’s because, idk, their engagement with big Eva goes beyond a collective “get off my lawn!”

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  32. Dustin, what if you need to choose between being evangelical and being Reformed? Answering that question has occupied the better part of my career. You really think the New Calvinists want to hear that evangelicalism is parasitical on confessional Protestantism? You think TGC would let me write that?

    You have not understood me if you think I am doing something similar to Tim Keller. (At least I try to be Presbyterian.)

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  33. So by implication all of the confessionally reformed people I have mentioned need to repent because they are polluting the true reformed faith by being “nice” (sometimes) when engaging with Big Eva. That seems totally absurd. Most of the people “in the movement” are just happy to be in churches that don’t repeat the same topical sermon loop every year. If you want be such a purist at least have the distinction between people and leaders in your mind when you write articles about “reformed” evangelicalism on OL. Maybe be less abrasive when addressing the people as opposed to the leaders. “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” and all.

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  34. Well, another way to ask it is “Is being Reformed a set of church standards or a set of aspirational goals?”

    The first operates on pass/fail basis. The second operates on a foward progress basis.

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  35. Jeff Cagle says: Well, another way to ask it is “Is being Reformed a set of church standards or a set of aspirational goals? ”The first operates on pass/fail basis. The second operates on a foward progress basis.

    ooorrr, everyone ought think of ‘goal(s)’ ,what the Lord says :
    (you know I like word searches) (yes, each its context, yet principle too)

    of His promises :“For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the GOAL and it will not fail though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his FAITH. Hab 2:3 -4

    Philippians 3The GOAL of Life: 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through FAITH in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of FAITH,
    14 I press on toward the GOAL for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

    of instruction: the GOAL of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere FAITH. 1Tim 1:5

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  36. Trueman is an interesting case. He bashes Big Eva all day and Challies and TGC still link to his First Things articles. Not the type of behavior you would expect from a movement trying to censor a person.

    How else can Trueman increase his market share?

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  37. Dustin, why don’t the New Calvinists recommend confessional churches?

    Does Mike Horton tell New Calvinists they need to be in Reformed churches? Would TGC keep inviting him back?

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  38. Yes he does.

    In one TGC interview, he was asked: “Do you think networks, such as ones normally found in Reformed and Baptist circles, are helpful for the mission of the church or more distracting?”

    His response: “One of the strengths of evangelicalism has always been its way of bringing together Christians from a variety of traditions and denominations, offering a common witness to the essentials of the faith. I still consider it a privilege to participate in that common witness. However, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, “mere Christianity” is the hallway where people mix and mingle and meet visitors at the door. It’s only in the rooms, he said, where there’s a fire and people eat, drink, and live. Evangelicalism is a movement. Movements come and go. They can attract attention and gather crowds, but disciples are made in churches. There is no “evangelical church.” There are only churches that are evangelical, as well as Reformed or Baptist or Lutheran or Methodist, and so forth. As a Reformed minister, I’m thrilled to see so much interest in the doctrines of grace beyond traditional Reformed and Presbyterian circles. Yet my hope is that the whole wealth of Reformed faith and practice won’t be reduced to “five points.” With no disrespect to the noble flower, there’s more in the garden than tulips!”

    In in his book “Ordinary”, which was directed to the Yrr movement, he spends time arguing for paedobaptism, Presbyterian polity, setting aside the Lord’s Day, and against transformationalism (among other things). This is all done with an endorsement from none other than Carson himself on the back of the book, and mostly positive reviews on TGC. Here are a few sample quotes:

    Speaking of the Yrr, “It threatens to redefine what it means to be Reformed. Gifted leaders form movements. In a digital age, blogs are often more authoritative than sermons. But churches form confessions that live in the trenches that the Spirit digs and populates by his Word across all lands and generations. Joining a church, even a broader tradition, is not like joining a movement…there is more to being Reformed than the five points.”

    “Our culture speaks of the next big thing, but scripture speaks of an inter-generational covenant of grace.”

    The reformers believed that “there was no ‘right of private interpretation.’ Rather we all read the Bible together, submitting to the common mind of the church through its representative bodies.”

    “In the circles with which I’m most familiar, it isn’t the summer camp or revival, but the parachurch ministry or conference that makes everyday faithfulness in a local church seem like a trip to the dentist. I encounter regularly professing Christians who lament their church situation, but did not rank ‘a solid church’ at the top of their list when considering their move to a new city. They may attend the right conferences and read the right books, but they are a thorn in the side of their pastor and fellow members. Or perhaps they do not set aside the Lord’s Day at all and fill the day with something other than the means of grace and the fellowship of the saints. But they blame the church for its failure to feed them.”

    “So it is not simply by understanding doctrine that we uproot narcissism and materialism. It is by actually taking our place in a local expression of that concrete economy of grace instituted by God in Christ and sustained by his Word and Spirit.”

    “But how many of us think that God’s greatest signs and wonders are being done every week through the ordinary means of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper?”

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  39. We are discussing the fact that Horton and others can say (and choose to say) all of that in a constructive way that engages Big Eva and exposes its core foundation of “decent people” to reformed confessionalism. I wonder why they let him get away with so much? Could it be because he is “nice” (gasp!) some of the time?

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  40. Dustin, and here I thought you were coming around.

    For starters, your quotes from Ordinary were not vetted and approved by TGC.

    Second, I am nice at least to my cats (student evaluations are also revealing).

    Third, to say that evangelicalism is at odd with confessional Protestantism is not “nice”? Big Eva, where never is heard a discouraging word.

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  41. hellooo. forgetting someone???

    20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17

    Xs mentioned: God:20; us brothers: 9; world: 2

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  42. Jeff Cagle says:Well, another way to ask it is “Is being Reformed a set of church standards or a set of aspirational goals?”The first operates on pass/fail basis. The second operates on a foward progress basis.

    we. they. (cont)

    From todays reading: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

    -the transformed lives of the Corinthians were Paul’s most eloquent testimonial- Paul had the Corinthian believers’ changed lives as proof that Christ had transformed them. – Paul’s letter was a living one- Paul’s letter was alive, written by Christ’s divine, supernatural power through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit -more than just writing His Law on stone, God was writing His Law on the hearts of those people He transformed – the transformed lives of the Corinthians proved that salvation was an internal change wrought by God in the heart. http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals/daily-bible

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  43. How much more approval can Horton get for the content of that book than the co founder of TGC writing a positive blurb at the beginning? Does he need more positive book reviews to appear on TGC than are already there? Horton’s “niceness” spills over not just into his content but into how he interacts. This appears to be why he is able to get away with saying what he says and still stay on good terms. Isn’t that a wise application of Pr 15:1 and 16:21?

    And I too am a fan of my feline companion (some ethos points perhaps?).

    To lay out my case simply, here it is.

    1) What Horton is doing to engage “reformed” evangelicalism is not wrong (maybe you disagree with this premise, in which case this will clarify a lot of our conversation)

    2) Not only is it not wrong, it is helpful

    A) People are being exposed to confessionally reformed theology in larger numbers than they would be if he chose to relate to Big Eva the way you do.

    B) People are becoming reformed (Me, for example)

    3) Therefore, why not be like Mike?

    Really I’m just using Horton as an example. There are plenty of confessionally reformed academics who have chosen to relate to Big Eva in a different way than you have. Why is that? Is it because they aren’t reformed enough? If so, why not call them out on OL for compromising the Reformed faith?

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  44. Jeff, we/they (cont. 3); hellooo,forgetting someone??? (cont. 1)

    Imitate me. Why? I imitate Christ.1 Cor 11:1

    Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 1 Cor 3:7

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  45. I’m not trying to insinuate that all critical dialogue isn’t nice. And I’m sure you are an upstanding gentleman. You are a fellow cat person so I have to give you the benefit of the doubt. I really do appreciate all of this dialogue and didn’t expect it so thank you. I’m still new to this reformed thing. I’ve only been a member of a pca church for a year so I’m trying to figure some things out. I genuinely want to know why there is such a spectrum of approaches to dealing with evangelicalism among historic confessionals (to be more precise).

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  46. Is this nice?

    Tragically, it has become clear that some of the most influential evangelical theologians today do not describe God correctly. It has also become clear that they have no intention of correcting their errors. As a by-product, some of these errors have been used to enable domestic abuse. This does not bode well for the future. What is tolerated in one era might very easily become the orthodoxy of the next – and there is much evidence to suggest we might be there already.

    When Todd told me of the vicious attacks he was receiving yesterday, I was shocked to know the name of the person involved. But then again I was not shocked at all — such vile attacks are part of the culture. I get them myself all the time, usually cloaked with some throat-clearing token piety at the beginning or the end. It is simply easier to attack the man than address the arguments. For myself, I simply ignore them — hey, the man who has no enemies has no honour. Todd, however, is more sensitive.

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  47. Dustin, you see my point. I may very well be nice and still in disagreement with evangelicals. I do engage. I write. They don’t engage me. The don’t like what I say and may assume I am not nice. But when is any Christian above criticism?

    Forgot. The pope.

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  48. Thanks, DGH, for the nice response. Really, really nice.

    For what it’s worth, I have to wonder what the varying degrees of niceness by the Reformed Confessionalists (Horton, et al), has really accomplished in the last 10 years. Perhaps it provided a little more visibility for a new book. But, at best, it seems like they get a nice pat on the head as the token confessionalist. It’s like the PCA (from what I’ve observed) – the confessionalists think they have a seat at the table and that the majority is engaging with them, until they step out of line (a la MoS gang).

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  49. I fear for the safety of Carl and Todd. They should carry mace or something stronger. And they should watch out for large SUVs with tinted windows and license plates from SEC states. “That’s a nice Camry ya got there. Be a shame if somethin’…happened to it.”

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  50. Darryl, I will def order it. I was planning on working through your books soon. Anyways I get the points you are making. Does the logical conclusion of what you are arguing about evangelicalism mean that Godfrey should stop going to ligonier conferences? This isn’t meant to be sarcastic. Also on a slightly unrelated note, do you (or anyone else on here) have any recommendations for books that deal with observing the sabbath? I’ve read vos’ material on it in his commentary on the larger catechism already.

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  51. Dustin, two points here. How people evaluate a situation and what they do about it. At one point, Horton and Godfrey and I were in synch in evaluation. Not always aligned in practice. But if they were to agree with me, someone might think criticizing evangelicalism is warranted (even if they don’t do it).

    Read John Murray on the Sabbath. Can’t remember which volume. He has two good essays that lay it out well. Best read with a tumbler of Scotch at hand. (Where are you gonna find counsel like that among evangelicals?)

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  52. Darryl, I can’t consume anything with traces of gluten due to an allergy. It sucks. Rum however…Lets just say I wasn’t a very good southern baptist

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  53. we/they (cont.),

    and then Jeff, even if there were a we/they (which there isn’t in Christ, according to Christ) –
    there is no ‘me’ in we or they, nor body,church- for if there were just one member/ or all were one member, where would the body be?
    Christ – does have an ‘ i’- even still, the “i’s” ‘”in Christ” are given gifts, assignments, appointments for dot dot dot-
    the common good and for building up in love

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  54. But hey, nonetheless, cw, peace offering
    let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col 3:16
    I know you like to sing, but being Tuesday,you can just save it til Sunday 🙂

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