You Can’t Claim the Reformation and the First Gross (think German) Awakening

While the Gospel Allies put on the mantle of Luther — LUTHER!!! (that antinomian, beer drinking, potty mouth) — they should really be reading Garry Wills on the problem with evangelicalism. As I’ve been trying to say for some time, revivalism is antithetical to reformation. The church (as in reform the church) matters to Luther and Calvin. The parachurch is at the heart of revivals and the Gospel Coalition. To that end, consider the following:

Evangelicalism tends to break out of any single denomination—think of the preachers from various bodies at Cane Ridge. It is fissiparous even in its most favorable environments—think of Methodism branching into the Disciples of Christ, the Holiness Movement, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Whitefield, it should be remembered, was an ordained Anglican.) Evangelicalism is a style—Mark Noll calls it a “value system.” It can affect even some “high church” bodies or members. There are Pentecostalists among Roman Catholics. (Phyllis Schlafly, it should be remembered, was a Catholic, as Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon are. Bannon showed his allegiance in his 2014 Skype address to the Institute for Human Dignity at the Vatican.)

Given this description of evangelical style, two things should be noticed. America is, or likes to think of itself as, a “do-it-yourself democracy.” Many of the traits I have been listing are ones Americans will fancy themselves as embodying (or wanting to). People who hit the sawdust trail are working a kind of do-it-yourself salvation. The credentialing by the people is what all presidents claim. No wonder Noll thinks of evangelical religion (despite its roots in Wesley’s England) as native to America, as giving America its most recognizable God. Calvin said God “elects” his chosen ones. In America we choose to elect our leaders. The crowd credentials the preacher. Historians rightly observe that our national political conventions have borrowed elements from revivals.

The Allies should be especially mindful, as the crowds gather this week that “crowds credential preachers.”

6 thoughts on “You Can’t Claim the Reformation and the First Gross (think German) Awakening

  1. Tim Keller’s introduction to Sinclair Ferguson’s introduction to the Marrow—“To grow in grace comes not simply from believing more in our justification. You need MORE THAN JUST an abstract belief in your legal exemption from punishment… When we behold God’s glory, this eperience reorders the loves of our hearts, so we DELIGHT in him supremely, and the other things that have ruled our lives LOSE THEIR ENSLAVING POWER OVER USlThis is not MERELY telling yourself that you are accepted and forgiven.

    Mark 9: 38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me.40 For whoever is not against us is for us

    Carl Truman is with them and also against them.


  2. Philip Cary: “According to Luther’s account of baptism Christ speaks to me in particular, which is possible only with an external word, not a universal principle. Thus the major premise of Luther’s syllogism, which refers to me in particular, differs subtly but profoundly from the major premise of the standard Protestant syllogism, which is a universal principle applying to me only as a member of a whole class of people, i.e., all who believe in Christ.

    Philip Cary–In the Lutheran syllogism, ‘you’ means me; in the Protestant syllogism, ‘you’ could only mean whoever believes in Christ . . . According to the logic I must know I believe in order to be saved. Here Luther gets off the boat . Protestantism cannot carry through its own deepest intention – to put faith in the word of Christ alone – without a Catholic doctrine of sacramental efficacy.”

    Click to access carysolafide.pdf


  3. “Evangelicalism tends to break out of any single denomination” Well, thank goodness, really. For all it’s embarrassing messiness, Evangelicalism has kept the faith alive in these denominations. It may not fit in the parameters Reformed folk think right, but it also gave us the preaching of Moody and Spurgeon, the hymns of Charles Wesley, the study notes of Wetherell Johnson, and the books of Andrew Murray, FB Meyer, and J O Sanders. IOW, while I can’t defend all its inanities, or parse it analytically, I can tell you intuitively it is far more a blessing than an awkward fit. Especially given the current PCA inflation with Beyoncé. Or the letter-perfect but ego-riddled ministry of Doug Wilson. It’s like giving the nod to Packer versus Sproul, if one has to choose. Yes, I know Luis Palau loves Pope Francis — yikes — but I imagine so does Tim Keller. When Young Restless Reformites with skinny jeans are all about the poetic ‘New City Catechism,’ don’t go raining on my 4 Spiritual Laws!


  4. DG… I know, I know… Is it a cop-out to day “Faith-informed experience”? We all cut corners, so I’ll just laughingly say the compromisers *I* let in aren’t as bad as the gatecrashers of others! LOL.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.