Why Pietism and Liberalism Go Hand in Hand

Amy Julia Becker declares her independence from evangelicalism — for at least the reign of President Trump. She seems to think that evangelical stands for something on the conservative side of Christianity’s spectrum. But she now sees how political evangelicalism has become. I’m not sure if she just landed from Mars.

Here is what makes her a pietist:

I am still tempted to categorize my Christian friends with words like “liberal” or “progressive” or “orthodox” or “conservative” or “evangelical.” I am still tempted to judge the faith of other people according to my standards of who and what constitutes Christianity. But when I stop and ask how I see God’s work in their expressions of faith — when I stop and consider the expansive love of God at work in and through countless people, people like me, people who have our theology wrong plenty of the time, people who have our theology right and still behave badly, people who are bumbling around in a world of sin and are still at our core beloved by God and invited to participate in God’s work in the world — when I do that, I start to believe that we are Christians.

Imagine what Ms. Becker would do with Arius. Look at how much he loves God.

Or what about Jacob Arminius? Well, he sure seems serious about the faith.

But such displays of or criteria for genuine faith have little to do with forms. In fact, it’s not just that Christianity revolves around feelings. The people who hurt feelings, the ones who stress right doctrine, the inerrancy of the Bible, or the regulative principle of worship, they are people who care more about forms than feelings. And therefore, such conservatives are inferior kinds of Christians. Tight sphinctered. Machen’s warrior children. They lack charity.

Snowflake Christians beget snowflake nones.


9 thoughts on “Why Pietism and Liberalism Go Hand in Hand

  1. “Christian” = nice person. But the Christian gospel rests on the facts that our niceness is ever nice enough or uncorrupted enough to resolve the universal human problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonhoeffer—”There are some who, when they find out that the bus is going the wrong direction, walk toward the other end of the bus.”

    isn’t it all relative? As long as you stay on the catholic mainstream spectrum somewhere?

    Reformed and American

    sometimes the hyphen, but sometimes not

    Reformed but not evangelical

    Mike Horton (mainstream enough to still speak at Sproul conferences),– “Confessional Protestants have often prayed for special periods of awakening and revival. Pro-revival Calvinists include the Puritans and the great Princetonians (Alexander, Hodge, and Warfield), not just Edwards and Whitefield. So the debate over the meaning and legitimacy of “revival” is in-house. There is no historical justification for pro-revival or anti-revival Calvinists to write each other out of this heritage.

    Mike Horton–“What exactly is a “confessionalist”? Typically, this is a swear-word hurled at those who are simply confessional. However, sometimes it is worn proudly as a label by anti-pietists… The Belgic Confession treats the marks of the true Christian (faith in Christ, following after righteousness, love of God and neighbor, mortification of the flesh) in the same article as the marks of the true church (Art 29). Although assurance of God’s favor is founded solely on his promise of justification in Christ, “we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 86). Personal faith, repentance, and growth in godliness are enjoined in the Westminster Confession (chapters 13-16)….. Jonathan Edwards and John Williamson Nevin have become flag-bearers for Calvinistic “pietism” and “confessionalism,” respectively. However, in my view, both are somewhat idiosyncratic representatives of the Reformed tradition. To move beyond polarization, we need to include more mainstream voices through the ages.”



  3. Jonathan Edwards and Justification, ed Josh Moody, 2012, Crossway– “it was becoming a custom, largely through the influence of Edwards’s grandfather Solomon Stoddard, to minimize the visibility of God’s saving work and thus relax the criteria for admission to the Lord’s Supper. In effect, the visible connection between justification and sanctification was being severed.” Sam Logan–”The Half-way Covenant minimized the importance of a holy life as necessary evidence of conversion by allowing unregenerate persons to partake of the Lord’s Supper. When Edwards took over for his grandfather in 1729, he began moving back to a more Puritan practice of stressing the need for visible sanctification.”



  4. mcMark, and don’t you love this from Mike Horton:

    At least in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, “confessionalism” is just as unhelpful a description. I know what it means to be confessional: it’s to affirm that Scripture so clearly reveals “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” that churches can recognize and affirm this faith together across all times and places. But what exactly is a “confessionalist”? Typically, this is a swear-word hurled at those who are simply confessional. However, sometimes it is worn proudly as a label by anti-pietists. If “pietism” sets the inward work of the Spirit over against the external means of grace, “confessionalism”—in some versions, at least—simply reverses the antithesis. This is a dangerous opposition that is foreign to the Reformed confession. And that leads to the third point.

    But when you contrast Reformational with evangelical you’re golden.


  5. It seems to me that we have the makings of another real life playing out of the parable of the two men praying. It starts when one side thinks that they have everything to teach and nothing to learn.

    And as a side, if only those who hold so tightly to the regulative principle could show that it is taught in the NT rather than not followed there then they could show why they are above those who only hold to right doctrine including the inerrancy of the Scriptures.


  6. McMark @ 2017 October 19 19:57,
    “Can we hope for a neocalvinist neopuritan dialog?”
    Absolutely, yes!
    (Although I think that is clearly above my pay grade.)


  7. As long as we have “evangelical” as the “other”, certain questions about covenant and election can be avoided. If covenant love is not necessarily election, then we can begin worship with the assumption that those present are loved and can therefore now be taught law in its third not first use.

    Ursinus—“The effects of justifying faith are, 1. Our justification before God. 2. Joy and delight in God, with peace of conscience. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” 3. Conversion, regeneration, and universal obedience. “Purifying their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9) 4. The consequences which belong to the effects of faith, such as an increase of temporal and spiritual gifts, and the reception of these gifts by faith. The first effect, therefore, of justifying faith, is our justification. After this has once taken place, all the other benefits which follow faith are made over unto us, which benefits, we believe, are given unto us by faith, inasmuch as faith is the cause of them. For that which is the cause of a cause, is also the cause of the effect. If faith be, therefore, the last cause of our justification, it is likewise the cause of those things which follow our justification. “Your faith has made you whole.” (Luke 8:48) In a word, the effects of faith are justification, and regeneration which is begun in this life, and will be perfected in the life to come.”

    Daniel Fuller– “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an obedience of faith. Paul would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…James’ s concern in 2:14-26 was to urge a faith that saves a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering faith….”

    Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

    Cunha—The foreword to the recently published second edition of Gaffin’s By Faith, Not By Sight is written by PCA pastor Mark Jones and is fully consistent with the understanding that there has been no positive change in Gaffin’s teaching on justification. The selection of Mark Jones to write the foreword, a man who has on more than one occasion publicly suggested that works of evangelical obedience have some efficacy in justification, is itself noteworthy. Jones gushes at the beginning of the foreword that “It is a unique privilege and a remarkable providence to write a foreword for a book that has been so deeply influential in my own theological thinking.” He then attempts to defend Gaffin’s views on soteriology, and especially justification, largely on the basis of historical theology…
    Jones says that Reformed theologian Peter Van Mastricht (1630-1706) taught that there are three stages of justification and that in the third and final stage “in which believers gain possession of eternal life, good works have a certain ‘efficacy,’ insofar as God will not grant possession of eternal life unless they are present.” Jones goes on to say that both Gaffin and Van Mastricht “hold firmly to the Reformed view that good works are a necessary condition (consequent, not antecedent, to faith) for salvation.”
    Cunha— I was struck by Jones’s sudden shift from the word “justification” to the word “salvation” …. both Van Mastricht and Gaffin stretch justification out into multiple stages and that good works are in some way efficacious in the final stage. Such a scheme violates the antithesis between works (Law) and faith (Gospel) with respect to justification. This is entirely consistent with the explicit denial of the Law/Gospel contrast expressed by Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.


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