Why Reformed Protestantism is Safe

You have ways to avoid the excesses of Jonanthan Edwards (which you never learn about from the New Calvinists), John Wesley, and Jim and Tammy Bakker:

From Edwards and Wesley, we receive a fixation on the will, a desire to create enclaves of piety, and a belief in the possibility of the individual’s direct experience of God. In the work of their successors, such as Charles Grandison Finney, we find latent belief in the sinlessness of the true self and an approach to revival characterized by the appearance of improvisation and spontaneity. These preachers cultivated the spirits of the multitude through results-focused experimentalism in the context of camp meetings around the country, sowing in the American character the seeds of enthusiasm that would yield strange harvests in every decade thereafter. The later 19th century saw the development of quasi- and post-Christian reform movements, fads, and pop-philosophies that would call individuals to embrace their higher selves—such as “New Thought,” which centered the will in a larger project of spiritual self-advancement through the unleashing of “the creative power of constructive thinking.”

The 20th century inherited from these enthusiastic forebears an epochal optimism. Even in times of anxiety and despair, there is a hopefulness in the American self, and this hopefulness is built upon that self’s utter reality in a world of mere appearances; though circumstances change, the self remains a firm foundation. The literary critic Harold Bloom captured something of the strangeness of this in his provocative and infuriating book The American Religion. “The soul stands apart,” he writes, “and something deeper than the soul, the Real Me or self or spark, thus is made free to be utterly alone with a God who is also quite separate and solitary, that is, a free God or God of freedom.” In essence, Bloom describes a post-Protestant Gnostic cult of the self: “The American finds God in herself or himself, but only after finding the freedom to know God by experiencing a total inward solitude.”

Bloom’s analysis hinges on a metaphysical intuition: that the self is uncreated, and it knows, rather than believes in, its own innocence and divinity. “Awareness, centered on the self, is faith for the American religion,” Bloom wrote, and this religion of the self “consistently leads to a denial of communal concern.” Christ is internalized to a point of blurred identity with the “real me.” Such are the fruits of what Bloom calls the “doctrine of experience”—an outgrowth from the taproot of religious enthusiasm. Christianity, Bloom suggests, was too cramped for the young, unbounded nation. Abandoning doctrinal encumbrances such as belief in original sin (or sometimes, belief in sin at all), an intuitive and endlessly innovative spirituality grew to meet this need.

* * *
Wild spirits prepared the way for the coming of the Bakkers. Distinct from mainline, fundamentalist, and evangelical varieties of Protestantism—but eventually influential in all three—Pentecostalism grew out of late-19th-century Methodist holiness movements, dramatically emerging through a revival in Los Angeles that began in 1906 and lasted for a decade. With a mandate to seek out the signs and wonders attributed to Christ’s apostles in the book of Acts, Pentecostals trembled, shouted, spoke in tongues, and did much else to startle and shock the sensibilities of average Americans. Promises of dramatic spiritual and physical healing found great purchase among those in poverty, and the new enthusiasm became disreputable both for its excesses and its hard-up—and racially diverse—demographics.

If Tim Keller wants to join that company of enthusiasts, have at it.

9 thoughts on “Why Reformed Protestantism is Safe

  1. “The things of earth will dim and lose their value.”

    it’s like getting your picture taken with Tim Keller, but then at the same time not needing that anymore, because “one thing we all know is God loves us”

    It’s like hating this age and this world, but also at the same time having a financially safe realm with a worldview that takes responsibility for the world not as a church but in your private life with your Reformed family which is and is not the church.

    Being reformed keeps you safe from saying that Jesus is coming so soon it’s time right now to make a decision to not leave Jesus disappointed? Being Reformed keeps you safe from killing Muslims to keep Israel safe and killing Communists to protect your American values.?

    Hebrews 9: 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

    It turns out that death itself is safe and you really don’t need Jesus to bring salvation, because death means you can go straight home even before the judgment if you made the decision. Otherwise possibly you will begin to bear those same sins that Jesus bore for you (either in purgatory, or in the place where people sin forever)

    Mark Noll–: This list of funeral songs looks like something from one of the hymn pamphlets prepared by Cliff Barrows for a typical Graham crusade from the 1950s …. Such pamphlets, in turn, resembled the way that Ira Sankey prepared his “Sacred Songs and Solos” from his musical work for D. L. Moody.

    “Stuart Hamblen, a Hollywood cowboy who came to faith at a Graham crusade in 1949 and whose conversion served as a turning point for Graham’s ministry, painted a classic evangelical theme in “Until Then”—that tension between the already and the not yet.”


  2. The interesting thing is, fundamental Christianity is Biblical. At one time, all sects of Christianity were. Luther raised the dead and healed by prayer and touch. But, read the Old Testement. David was so filled with Holy Ghost fever, he tore off his clothes. He sang, he shouted, he wept before God for love of God and did it often. That’s how rednecks like the Hebrews worshipped. That’s how Jesus prayed and worshipped, with loud cries and tears, we’re taught. As an ex-Lutheran, Eastern (liberal) Synod, I had problems worshipping God as God wanted, but have oversome that by the power of God. His peace to you, and His love.


  3. Proof, please. I’m still waiting for proof any of the three anti-Semitic letters attributed to Luthor were actually his. No fingerprints a-tall. Ich bin der bar.


  4. I note you offer proof against Luther, who was very much filled with the Holy Spirit. The beginning of reformation, the exclusion of God, was the death knell of the churches. Nice try, but now the Muslims are here to make you fry. Your asinine comment is a mockery of God, because He put that in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, mine little nose miner. As a former atheist, I have to shake my head at church liberalism. No wonder fundy churches are brimming and now one coming to be while liberal church buildings are being sold for lack of parishioners and funds. Your population is aging while the children seek reality in God, and find it with fundamentalists Christians and in Islam. Over half the people attending where I church are in their 20s-30s, and most are well-educated. Everyone of us was once Catholic, Lutheran, Meths, and other reformed bodies. My church seats 500 and on a Sund’y morn is full. Seek the Word of God, not the words of men. This is, indeed, the age of apostasy. God’s peace to you, as it is on me, in love.


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