The Shelf Life of 2k — Part One

In 2009, David Strain, then a PCA pastor in Columbus, Mississippi, did a four-part interview with me about 2k and the spirituality of the church. These links are dead but they do prove that I’m not making this up. And through the wonders of the interweb, you can retrieve old web pages (and you wonder what the NSA can do).

Here is the first of the interviews. Pastor Strain tries to situate 2k in the vicissitudes of Presbyterianism in the U.S.

2 Kingdoms ideas and the complex of doctrinal issues that accompany them have been creating a bit of a stir of late. Among those with whom I am in contact much of the debate is generated by misunderstanding. So what else is new, I hear you cry.

Well, to help us (or help me at least) work through some of the areas of potential misunderstanding Dr. Darryl Hart has graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

Just to ease us in, today we begin with a few general comments on common features of the contemporary evangelical landscape….

1. Darryl, would you comment on the distinction that is often made in conservative reformed circles between revival and revivalism? Is it a helpful distinction?

I am inclined to think it is a distinction without a difference. It has been a way to try to distinguish the good First (Really) Great Awakening from the Second (bad) Great Awakening. I will take Edwards over Finney any day. So the theology of the First GA may have been better. But typically the assessment of Edwards and Whitefield does not go a lot farther than the 5 points of Calvinism. But what about preaching the “terrors of the law” to apparent believers? What kind of theology leads to that? And what about the frankly bizarre conversion experiences of even Presbyterian revivalists like the Tennents? And what about Whitefield’s pulpit antics (well documented in Stout’s biography)? When you look more closely at the First GA you are getting a lot more than that for which you bargained. And then there is the problem of conversion and the way that a dramatic experience became the norm for detecting regeneration and effectual calling. So in the end, I’m not inclined to think revivalism was all that hot.

2. What is an Old Side Presbyterian, and do you qualify?

An Old Side Presbyterian was a guy who opposed revivalism because revivalists were not as concerned about subscription as Old Siders were, and was opposed to the way that some New Siders completely disregarded church polity and the authority of synod and presbyteries. So if to be an Old Sider is to favor subscription to the Standards, believe in the real authority of the church, and to be suspicious of subjective religious experience, I am one.

3. Do Old Siders believe in evangelism?

Old Siders do believe in evangelism. They believe that preaching is an ordinance that convicts and converts sinners. Old Siders believe in preaching. This isn’t quite a syllogism, but you get the point. Now, because of the influence of revivalism – just as conversion has taken on a different meaning from the Reformation, so has evangelism. For many revival-friendly Protestants, evangelism is what every Christian does. My “witnessing” is apparently no different or worse than God’s appointed means (let’s not forget Romans 10) for drawing his people to himself. But if there is still room in the universe for churchly evangelism, then I believe in evangelism.

4. Do individual believers have a responsibility to engage in evangelism?

Not to be coy, but some do and some don’t. All believers should be able to give a defense of their faith, but I do not assume that this is the same as witnessing or giving one’s testimony. Having had to go door-to-door as a kid for evangelistic purposes I may be overreacting. But I also think that the way that evangelism is often advocated leads to Christians who are constantly on the make, looking for a way to close the deal. In other words, they don’t seem to take other people as people; non-believers are persons to be converted and then the evangelist moves on to the next non-Christian.

You see this very well illustrated in the movie, The Big Kahuna (which has lots of bad language so believers whose consciences cannot bear such words should beware). It is an amazingly sympathetic view of a born-again Christian who feels compelled to witness on the job. Not only does the movie show that sometimes this approach makes Christians look like one-dimensional people, but it also says important things about vocation. If we serve God in our work, then we don’t need to make it really religious by using it to evangelize.

So some people may be called to evangelize, others are not (some do not even have the gifts for personal evangelism). The guys who are definitely called to evangelize are preachers.

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9 thoughts on “The Shelf Life of 2k — Part One

  1. With the LCMS this is the argument stated roughly “why does a congregation exist”. Is gathering for Word and Sacrament, the Augsburg Confession definition of church, enough, or is that a slacker church that should be doing more for Jesus. So it always boils down to a size argument. The bigger churches complaining about the smaller ones being unfaithful with the implied you should close. The smaller churches retorting that well, if you weren’t strip-mining the confessional congregations with offerings of more “jazz” and all the best feelz, in place of actual word and sacrament. Is worship an end in itself (Jesus), or is it just a means to an end (Jesus and whatever the CEO pastor wants)?

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  2. David Scaer—“The solution that the grace given in baptism could be received by faith later in life was popular, because it kept the grace of baptism and faith as mature decision intact. Problematic is that logical priority of sola gratia over the sola jide becomes a temporal separation, which is NOT Luther’s teaching and endangers his sola jide principle.”

    Scaer—Schleierrnacher created a theological synthesis out of the Pietism of his parental home and the critical Rationalism of his university education. Pietism saw faith as self-reflection whose progress could be measured. Baptism’s regenerating grace were denied. Pietists were at odds with Luther, who held that the one who finds himself in despair has a greater faith than the one who thinks he believe.

    Scaer–Sponsors were replaced by parents who pledged to provide ethical upbringing for the child. It became more of a family rite than a churchly one. Our own liturgy contains pledges concerning the child’s upbringing which were not part of Luther’s rite..

    Scaer– Salvation is given in baptism, though not because of faith. Finding the certainty of salvation in faith is the devil’s work and is as useless as the medieval demand to rely on confession for forgiveness. Bifurcating Luther into green (Protestant) and ripe (Catholic) periods is attractive for those who want to give faith a secondary role in baptism or eliminate it by delay—: baptize now, believe later.” http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scaerdlutherbaptism.pdf

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  3. The best way to evangelize is to have extended conversations about what the Gospel is over long periods of time. That way you are not making an emotional appeal but appealing to the intellect and reasoning abilities of the individual. That is what being made in the image of God is all about isn’t it? Instead of making a sale you are treating the individual like he really is made in the image of God. It does not matter if the persons IQ is 50 or 250. The content of the Gospel has to be assented to. It allows the individual to ask honest questions and break down the false objections that may be lingering in the mind. It also allows the evangelist to better assess whether the individual is actually assenting to the true Gospel or a false one. Paul reasoned at the school of Tyrannus with those from Ephesus for two years as revealed in the book of Acts.

    The Big Kahuna did make an important point. I did enjoy that movie too.

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  4. Thanks DGH, where do they find the energy to go around bothering themselves about others theology when they already agree 99.8% and the offset is adiaphora?

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  5. Speaking of awakenings a revivalism, exactly which characteristics define these movements? In other words, was the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the late 60’s/early 70’s a revival of sorts? Or was it just a fad like tie-dyed shirts, Jimmy’d hair, or the fanatical attachment to the Electric Prune’s heavy metal version of Kyrie Eleison that paved the way for an unfortunate meld of rock music and exuberant lyrics later to become what is now known as Contemporary Christian music? And have there been even more revivals?

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