According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Insistence of God in Times of Change (Characteristics of Neo-Fundamentalism)


Painting the Canvas that is me...

As a follow-up to the recent article, "My Journey Out of Inerrancy to a Broader Hermeneutic," written in response to Jonathan Merrit's article, "The Troubling Trends in America's 'Calvinist Revival',"comes Scott McKnight's and Bob Robinson's follow-up articles pertaining to the emergence of puritanism into neo-Calvinism. The question they ask is, "Are we correct in associating neo-Calvinism with Abraham Kuyper? Or, the neo-Reformed movement with the larger Reformed movement? Or even if, what we are seeing in parts of the conservative evangelical movement may perhaps be an aspect of neo-Puritanism?"

McKnight continues to think this present movement is both part of the Calvinist and Reformed traditions but does also think (as proposed by Bob Robinson) that the Puritanism of yesteryear found under the Great Awakening may also be part of its central core of beliefs and tenants.

To all this Brian McLaren takes offense over usage of the term neo-Reformed because of the label offending the larger Reformed tradition's grander moves to enlarge itself and be more progressive with society at all times of its reformed - and reforming - history. Instead, Brian says to call or horse by its color - which in this case is a resurgence amongst conservative evangelicals as a 21st century movement of Neo-Christian Fundamentalism (see the last article below for more on this).

So what is Puritanism?

A quick glance at the dictionary will describe it as a movement known for its extreme strictness in moral or religious matters, often to excess. A religious body of beliefs espousing a rigid austerity. Which of course is what this blogsite here has been observing these past many years as the evangelical Christian church is becoming fragmented across its many fellowships and denominations. Some moving towards a conservative rendering of their faith while others are more accepting of societal norms and standards, causing the church to re-adjust formerly conservative attitudes towards a kinder, gentler liberality, or tolerance, towards all peoples, movements, and religions.

And what are the causes for this general disaffection within today's churches?

Generally it is the observation here that the pronounced postmodern movement away from secular modernism has been its main reason, especially as this era itself is being propelled along by global communications and technologies joining hands with dissimilar people groups, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and religions. The modern day church is therefore caught within this epistemological chasm of profound change and is experiencing a variety of reactions to it. And not unexpectedly does it choose not to change or adjust its standards, rules, or attitudes. But instead seeks the refuge of inaction and silence within a past era of yesteryear's more familiar beliefs and traditions.... Even to the point of unwisely sanctifying them. At which point the church ceases to be missional and becomes instead an insulated time capsule floating through the ether pretending nothing has changed but this wicked world as it awaits God's judgment and heaven to come.

Supposedly, this very typical religious reaction has worked well in the past (though church history will demonstrate otherwise) and more recently, for a generation or two, even now. However, with the Millennial generations moving forward at light speed away from the church of the 50s and 80s, the body of Christ must now confront its lethargy and re-determine its religious, if not spiritual, identity. Whether it will be one of a bygone era, or one founded upon a postmodern day missional church movement. The monumental changes that confronts its does now confront it across all of life, thinking, affection, and goodwill. And that by its resistance and inaction to today's present challenges the church is now experiencing an even greater sense of absence and alienation. One that is producing a divide of estrangement and disloyalty, if not the deepening feeling of outright treason within itself and towards society in general. As a result, the general emotions of fear, distrust, and uncertainty, grip the church against its longer traditions of trusting in the God of the church to lead and direct.

And yet, unable to adapt or change, the church resists. And by resisting is willfully changing its sense of understanding of God, the Bible, and mission - even though it is certain that those outside its hallowed institutions are the ones more guilty of this charge. And so, it remains guarded, if not confrontational, to any interests seeking to divest it of its inherited traditions, customs, beliefs, and morals. But to the stout-hearted believers within the body of God this is not acceptable.

The Insistence of God

Thus, here at Relevancy22 we are more interested in showing by many hands and many voices biblically acceptable, and appropriate ways, to relent of modernism's fearful grip. To positively embrace the profound changes being experienced by postmodernism's deconstruction of the past. And to find the very God of Scripture to be very near - and very present - with His church in this world we live. Especially in the storms of change and upheaval. That God is larger than our encrusted beliefs. That God is more enduring than any institute or religion of man. That God Himself is joyfully embracing today's profound challenges in ways that will recharge and spiritually re-awaken once again His slumbering church to His presence and persistence. Some would even call this movement of God upon the hearts of man His spiritual insistence. An insistence that would embrace His presence with His missional heart in the awakening blossom of a global redemptive movement more at a loss when change is not profoundly occurring than when it is.

A divine insistence that dreads not the future but dreads looking back on its past as if it were more sanctified than it really was. A past that needed God's healing to its brokenness and failures as any future will also need of God's healing graces. It is a certainty then that the experience of life is one that will always test its life-givers and demand that they be both wise and loving. Discerning and gracious. Courageous and merciful. Adventurous and forgiving. And it is in the Spirit-life of Jesus, who Himself was undaunted by the Cross, and the more determined to embrace it in the apocalypse of God's salvation, who proceeded apace against temple and institute to find the lost sheep of His folds. Even so, let us follow our Lord's path, embracing rightful change and attesting to the power of Almighty God. Amen.

R.E. Slater
May 28, 2014
updated June 6, 2014



continue to -


      



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The Great Awakenings
First (c.1731-1755)
Second (c.1790-1840)
Third (c.1850-1900)
Fourth (c.1960-1980)


The Great Awakening
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Awakening

The term Great Awakening is used to refer to several periods of religious revival in American religious history. Historians and theologians identify three or four waves of increased religious enthusiasm occurring between the early 18th century and the late 19th century. Each of these "Great Awakenings" was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestantministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.

TERMINOLOGY

The idea of an "awakening" implies a slumber or passivity during secular or less religious times. Awakening is a term which originates from and is embraced often and primarily by evangelical Christians.[11] In recent times, the idea of "awakenings" in US history has been put forth by conservative US evangelicals.[12]

FIRST GREAT AWAKENING
Main article: First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening began in the 1730s and lasted to about 1743, though pockets of revivalism had occurred in years prior especially amongst the ministry of Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards's grandfather.[1] Edwards's congregation was involved in a revival later called the "Frontier Revivals" in the mid-1730s, though this was on the wane by 1737.[2] But as American religious historian Sydney Sydney E. Ahlstrom noted the Great Awakening "was still to come, ushered in by the Grand Itinerant",[3] the great British EvangelistGeorge Whitefield. Whitefield arrived in Georgia in 1738, and returned in 1739 for a second visit of the Colonies, making a "triumphant campaign north from Philadelphia to New York, and back to the South."[4] In 1740, he visited New England, and "at every place he visited, the consequences were large and tumultuous." Ministers from various evangelical Protestant denominations supported the Great Awakening.[5] In the middle colonies, he influenced not only the British churches, but the Dutch and Germans.[6]

Additionally, pastoral styles began to change. In the late colonial period, most pastors read their sermons, which were theologically dense and advanced a particular theological argument or interpretation. The leaders of the Great Awakening, such as James Davenport, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tenant and George Whitefield, had little interest in merely engaging parishioners' intellects; rather, they sought a strong emotional response from their congregations that might yield the workings and experiential evidence of saving grace.Joseph Tracy, the minister, historian, and preacher who gave this religious phenomenon its name in his influential 1842 book The Great Awakening, saw the First Great Awakening as a precursor to the American Revolution. The evangelical movement of the 1740s played a key role in the development of democratic thought, as well as the belief of the free press and the belief that information should be shared and completely unbiased and uncontrolled. These concepts ushered in the period of the American Revolution. This contributed to create a demand for religious freedom.[7] Although the Great Awakening represented the first time African Americans embraced Christianity in large numbers, Anglican missionaries had long sought to convert blacks, again with the printed as well as the spoken word.[8]

SECOND GREAT AWAKENING
Main article: Second Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival that occurred in the United States beginning in the late eighteenth century and lasting until the middle of the nineteenth century. While it occurred in all parts of the United States, it was especially strong in the Northeast and the Midwest. This awakening was unique in that it moved beyond the educated elite of New England to those who were less wealthy and less educated. The center of revivalism was the so-called Burned-over district in western New York. Named for its overabundance of hellfire-and-damnation preaching, the region produced dozens of new denominations, communal societies, and reform.

In addition to a religious movement, other reform movements such as temperance, abolition, and women's rights also grew in antebellum America. The temperance movement encouraged people to abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks in order to preserve family order. The abolition movement fought to abolish slavery in the United States. The women's rights movement grew from female abolitionists who realized that they too could fight for their own political rights. In addition to these causes, reforms touched nearly every aspect of daily life, such as restricting the use of tobacco and dietary and dress reforms. The abolition movement emerged in the North from the wider Second Great Awakening 1800-1840.

THIRD GREAT AWAKENING
Main article: Third Great Awakening

The Third Great Awakening in the 1850s-1900s was characterized by new denominations, active missionary work, Chautauquas, and the Social Gospel approach to social issues.[9]The effects of such an awakening are immeasurable. It resulted in the addition of approximately one million converts to the churches of the United States. It tied the gospel with social work in a manner that had not been seen in this country before. It prepared the nation for the blood bath it would soon experience in the war years of 1861-1865. It gave birth to the great revivals which swept the armies of the South during the days of the war. The Y.M.C.A. (founded in 1844) played a major role in fostering revivals in the cities in the 1858 Awakening and after. The revival of 1858 produced the leadership, such as that of Dwight L. Moody, out of which came the religious work carried on in the armies during the civil war. It gave impetus to the creation of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions and numerous Freedmen's Societies that were formed in the midst of the War.

FOURTH GREAT AWAKENING
Main article: Fourth Great Awakening

The Fourth Great Awakening is a debated concept that has not received the acceptance of the first three. Advocates such as economist Robert Fogel say it happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Others call this time theCharismatic Movement. At that time the "mainline" Protestant denominations weakened sharply in both membership and influence while the most conservative religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread across the United States, had grave internal theological battles and schisms, and became politically powerful. Most of these organizations still stand today. There is no consensus on whether a fourth awakening has actually taken place.[10]


American Puritanism (I)
by NYU



Uploaded on Sep 19, 2010
Featuring discussions of typology; John Calvin; Arminianism; materialism and idealism;
phenomenal vs. noumenal; Puritan "plain style"; the form of the Puritan sermons;
the Great Migration; William Bradford; and John Winthrop.


The Influence of Puritanism on American Literature






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Puritanism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puritanism

The Puritans were a group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, including, but not limited to, English Calvinists. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exilesfrom the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England.

In modern times, the word 'puritan' is often used to mean 'against pleasure'.[1] Historically, the word was used pejoratively to characterise the Protestant group as extremists, similar to theCathars of France and, according to Thomas Fuller in his Church History, dated back to 1564. Archbishop Matthew Parker of that time used it and "precisian" with the sense of the modern "stickler".[2]

Puritans were blocked from changing the established church from within, and were severely restricted in England by laws controlling the practice of religion. Their views, however, were transported by the emigration of congregations to the Netherlands (and later to New England), and by evangelical clergy to Ireland (and later into Wales), and were spread into lay society and parts of the educational system, particularly certain colleges of the University of Cambridge. They took on distinctive views on clerical dress and in opposition to the episcopal system, particularly after the 1619 conclusions of the Synod of Dort they were resisted by the English bishops. They largely adopted Sabbatarian views in the 17th century, and were influenced bymillennialism.

In alliance with the growing commercial world, the parliamentary opposition to the royal prerogative, and in the late 1630s with the Scottish Presbyterians with whom they had much in common, the Puritans became a major political force in England and came to power as a result of the First English Civil War (1642–46). After the Restoration of 1660 and the 1662 Uniformity Act, almost all Puritan clergy left the Church of England, some becoming nonconformist ministers. The nature of the movement in England changed radically, although it retained its character for a much longer period in New England.

Puritans, by definition, were dissatisfied with the limited extent of the English Reformation, and the Church of England's tolerance of practices which they associated with the Catholic Church. They formed, and identified with, various religious groups advocating greater "purity" of worship and doctrine, as well as personal and group piety. Puritans adopted a Reformed theologyand, in that sense, were Calvinists (as were many of their earlier opponents), but they also took note of radical views critical of Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva. In church polity, some advocated for separation from all other Christians, in favour of autonomous gathered churches. These separatist and independent strands of Puritanism became prominent in the 1640s, when the supporters of a Presbyterian polity in the Westminster Assembly were unable to forge a new English national church.



go to this link here for a fuller discussion on Puritanism -






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What to Call the So-Called New Calvinists?
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/05/28/what-to-call-the-so-called-new-calvinists/

by Scot McKnight
May 28, 2014
Comments

My friend, Bob Robinson, has made a good case for seeing the New Calvinists as Neo-Puritans. I don’t think we can know this for sure, but it is indeed possible that on this blog that group was first called the Neo-Reformed, but a commenter said they are not really Reformed since they are mostly Baptists and not officially connected with the Reformed denominations. Then another friend said you can’t call them Neo-Calvinists since that’s Kuyper.

Neo-Puritan is a good moniker, but that might work even better for the likes of J.I. Packer. So maybe “neo-reformed” with a lower case R? Anyway, Bob Robinson makes the case for Neo-Puritan and I have reposted this with his permission.

What do you think? Perhaps you are tempted to say “no labels,” but that is not the reality in which we live. Ordered existence is the instinct for all of us, and this is about making sense not “othering.” Here’s Bob Robinson’s case:


So What’s Wrong with Neo-Calvinism?
http://www.re-integrate.org/2014/05/27/whats-wrong-neocalvinism/

by Bob Robinson
May 27, 2014

In response to the rise of the new Calvinists, we need to make sure we know who we are talking about.

For the past five years, there has been a lot of discussion about the rise of a new group of Calvinists. Groups like The Gospel Coalition are encouraging and celebrating how a new generation of believers seem to be embracing Reformed theology. In a recent lecture at the bastion of “Old Calvinism,” Westminster Seminary, John Piper defined the New Calvinism.

As this new Calvinism has become more prominent, there have also arisen critics. For some in the Old Calvinism camp, the predominance of Baptists (John Piper, D.A. Carson, Albert Mohler) in the New Calvinism has raised questions about the concept of Covenant: the Baptists don’t practice paedobaptism. Also, the New Calvinism holds what they call the “Complimentarian” view of women, while Old Calvinism has moved toward egalitarianism.

The Missional movement, which is largely Arminian, has also criticized the New Calvinism.

Scot McKnight is a former professor of mine at TEDS while I was also studying under one of the key leaders of the New Calvinism, Don Carson. Scot has written some scathing critiques of the New Calvinism’s insistence that the Gospel must be defined primarily by the salvation of individuals.

Jonathan Merritt just wrote a piece at Religion News Service (“The troubling trends in Americaís Calvinist revival”) saying,

“They've been called the young, restless, and reformed or neo-Calvinists, and they are highly mobilized and increasingly influential. Their books perform well in the marketplace (see John Piper or Paul David Tripp), their leaders pepper the lists of the most popular Christian bloggers (see The Gospel Coalition and Resurgence), and theyíve created vibrant training grounds for raising new recruits (see Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

This brand of Calvinists are a force with which to reckon. But as with any movement, America’s Calvinist revival is a mixed bag from where I sit, there are several troubling trends that must be addressed if this faithful faction hopes to move from a niche Christian cadre to a sustainable and more mainstream movement.

Notice that Merritt called them the young, restless, and reformed or neo-Calvinists.

The young, restless, and reformed refers to the best-selling book written by Collin Hansen, Editorial Director for The Gospel Coalition and is a good identifying tag for this group.

But what are we to make of this identification of them as neo-Calvinists?

Well, that is a misnomer. What Merritt and others are addressing is not Neo-Calvinism, but Neo-Puritanism.

I Know Neo-Calvinism, and that’s not Neo-Calvinism.

I think these New Calvinists should not be called “Neo-Calvinists,” but rather “Neo-Puritans.”

Back in 2009, I wrote a series of posts at my blog Vanguard Church on the nuanced differences between Neo-Puritanism and Neo-Calvinism.

Scot McKnight picked up on this terminology as he has interacted with people over the years. In a comment on a blog post by David Fitch in which Fitch was critiquing New Calvinist Mark Driscoll, Scot wrote,

“A former student of mine, Bob Robinson, told me a few years back that he had read a careful church historian who thought NeoPuritanism was more accurate. Jamie Smith also pushed back against using the term Reformed for this group; Vince Bacote thinks NeoCalvinist is not fair to Kuyper; Ken Stewart’s book proved to me again the Reformed movement is too big for this new development of mostly Baptist Calvinists.

So there is some protection of terms here and I have now myself landed on NeoPuritan as the heart of this movement. Puritanism is, of course, personal zeal before the Lord for holiness and, also, zeal for reforming church and society according to biblical (and not ecclesiastical) teachings. So I agree, we should probably start using NeoPuritan.”

It seems high-time to make clear the difference between Neo-Calvinism and Neo-Puritanism again.

Why? Because, first, with all the hoopla over the new Calvinism, people need to understand that the terms Calvinist or Reformed are much broader terms than any one particular group within the movement. Second, because with all the notoriety the new Calvinism is getting, especially in contrast to Old Calvinism and Arminianism, we need to make it clear that there is another group of Calvinists, a group that has called themselves Neo-Calvinist for 100 years, and has also gained some prominence in North America recently. This group has similarities to the other group, but there are some marked distinctions.

The Emphases of Neo-Puritanism

Puritan, Jonathan Edwards
Now hear me carefully: I don’t use the term Puritan in any derogatory manner. When this term is used, some hear puritanical, with all the caricatures of staunch religious strictness. That is not what I’m referring to.What Merritt (and others commenting on the recent surge of Calvinism) are talking about is what we should call Neo-Puritanism.

Neo-Puritanism is a resurgence of the ideas of John Owen, Richard Baxter, and of course Jonathan Edwards (John Piper’s favorite, and now the favorite of many who enjoy Piper’s enthusiastic writings).

Neo-Puritanism appropriately enlarges our view of God’s authority and thus our view of evangelism, worship, and the church’s role in society. It is very concerned with theological issues like the reality of sin and its destruction in both individuals and society, Penal Substitutionary Atonement and Justification as the means for individuals to be saved, and the Five Points (TULIP) of Calvinism.

It is very active in the religious cultural clashes in todayís American society, especially the issues of gay marriage and abortion. Neo-Puritanism sees the answer to societyís woes as starting with personal piety and then it moves out toward society, seeking to influence the culture to live by the pious standards in which Christians live.

But this is not Neo-Calvinism, so for Merritt and others to call it that only confuses matters.

The Emphases of Neo-Calvinism

Calvinist, Abraham Kuyper
Grace restoring natureî is the central insight of Neo-Calvinism. The gospel message for this group is best summarized by four chapters Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.Neo-Calvinism dates all the way back to Abraham Kuyper, the 19th Century Dutch cultural leader who famously said, ìThere is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!
This is where neo-Calvinists differentiate themselves from the Neo-Puritans.

They insist that there has not been enough attention paid on the first and last chapter. Acknowledging that the cross is the climax of Redemptionís story, neo-Calvinists insist that focusing just on Fall and Redemption (i.e., personal sin and salvation) neglects the deep implications of the cross to the cosmic story of Godís redemptive plan.

While both Neo-Calvinism and Neo-Puritanism are both concerned about personal piety and cultural influence, they come at these things from different angles. Neo-Puritanism focuses on the sovereignty of God in salvation. Neo-Calvinism focuses on the sovereignty of God over creation. Their Calvinism has a changing the world comprehensiveness, seeing that the implications of the redemption found in Christ infiltrates all spheres of society so that the ultimate end of God’s plan is the restoration of His creation.

Ray Pennings, Executive Vice President of the Neo-Calvinist think tank Cardus, wrote an excellent piece entitled, Can we hope for a neocalvinist-neopuritan dialogue?: Forging a public theology relevant for our times. In that article, he offered this insightful nuance:

Neo-Puritanism is slanted more towards individual piety and churchly revival, and Neo-Calvinism is slanted more towards corporate activism and cultural renewal.”

I recently asked Ray Pennings to expand on the important distinctives of Neo-Calvinism. He told me,

Neo-Calvinism doesnít neatly fit into the emerging ëold ñ newí Calvinist paradigm. Hence, I find the Neo-Puritanism / Neo-Calvinism distinction to be more helpful. There is a profound difference in their approach to the gospel. Neo-Puritans focus on the personal nature of salvation and see the church as primarily a salvation-factory, the workshop of the Holy Spirit in which the Word is sovereignly applied to the hearts of the totally depraved and they are brought into a vital relationship with God. The meaning of this for the rest of life is understood to be secondary and a by-product of a faithful life which has the church and the covenant community as its primary focus.

Neo-Calvinists on the other hand, focus on the church as the recharging station for the people of God and focus on the work of the spirit taking the witness of Godís people into their everyday lives. In practical terms, preaching and church life focuses on equipping the people of God for their comprehensive callings.

Two Streams of Calvinism

Now, I must emphasize that these are two streams of Calvinism, so there is certainly overlap. Tim Keller, who leans toward Neo-Calvinism is one of the leaders of the Neo-Puritan group The Gospel Coalition. While The Gospel Coalition has become much more vocal about a Neo-Puritan agenda, they have also just launched a new section of its website on Faith and Work (appropriately called “Every Square Inch,” the famous quote from Abraham Kuyper). On the other hand, a prominent neo-Calvinist college ministry conference, Jubilee, not only addresses the complexities of vocation as ministry with speakers like Andy Crouch and Anthony Bradley, but also proclaims the means of salvation from speakers like Tullian Tchividjian (who had a blog at The Gospel Coalition until recently).

As Ray Pennings told me,

“As with any bi-modal contrast, the differences here are highlighted in a way that might obscure the fact that many would reject these labels as reinforcing an either-or approach when a both-and is more appropriate. Nonetheless, any careful observer of the church and cultural life of those associated with these different groups should recognize that this debate has real every-day consequences. The character of preaching, the priorities in personal and church life, and the engagement with society and culture does look different depending on how one approaches these issues, making “Neo-Puritanism” and “Neo-Calvinism” descriptive terms that should be used in a helpful way to understand the contemporary Reformed and Presbyterian scene.”

Click to enlarge

Bob Robinson is the Executive Director of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life, and Vocations. Bob is also a Content Editor for The High Calling. Read Bob’s articles in the (re)integrate online magazine, follow Reintegrate’s tweets at @re_integrate and Bob’s personal twitter at @Bob_Robinson_re.



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Gangstas of Love or Neo-Christian Fundamentalists?

Neo-Calvinist, Neo-Reformed, or…
Neo-Fundamentalist?
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/zhoag/2014/06/02/neo-calvinist-neo-reformed-or-neo-fundamentalist/?utm_content=bufferc071f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

by Zach Hoag
June2, 2014
Comments

Labels are inevitable. We need need to understand and identify things. But labeling is difficult. Sometimes we assign a label and unintentionally or unnecessarily implicate individuals or groups who don’t really fit our intended description.

Such is the case with the conservative/evangelical Calvinistic-Baptist and Presbyterian resurgence that is busy championing the twin causes of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation, and fixed complementarian gender roles in the church and home. You know, the ones coalesced by institutions like Southern Seminary, The Gospel Coalition, the Acts 29 Network, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and Together for the Gospel. How do we label this group?

Some call them Neo-Calvinists. Some call them the Young, Restless, and Reformed. Some call them Maurice. WAH-WAHHH.

(Not really, but that would be a lot easier.)

And most have been calling them, simply, Neo-Reformed. That was my label for the movement up until a few months ago – when I became sensitive to the fact that the label unnecessarily lumps other Reformed individuals and groups into this rather particular emphasis on a controlling, wrathful God and the practice of keeping women subordinated to men in most areas of life.

So, I thought that Neo-Calvinist might be more accurate since it’s the particulars of Calvinist theology that this movement is really on about, not the broader scope of the Reformed tradition.

But then Bob Robinson wrote last week that Neo-Calvinist is already taken! And indeed it is. The Kuyperian Calvinists (TKC) were pretty “Neo” at the turn of the 20th century, and those who occupy this tradition now are not emphasizing the same things as the TGC types. The Kuyper folks emphasize God’s sovereignty over creation and culture, while the TGC types emphasize his sovereignty in salvation and damnation (and, apparently, in making sure that only dudes get lead pastor jobs and gay people can’t get married). Bob suggests that we should call the latter group “Neo-Puritans.” But I honestly just don’t think that’s going to stick.

So I have a suggestion. And it’s one that I am becoming increasingly convinced of in light of what I believe are serious theological and practical (not to mention, legal) problems with the movement in question. I think there’s another label that is more appropriate for this group and its emphases.

Neo-Fundamentalist.

This was somewhat confirmed for me in Brian McLaren’s recent response to Tim Challies calling him a false teacher. Brian began by describing that Tim is not properly labeled “Reformed”:

First, I should say that “Neo-Reformed” is probably a better name than “Reformed” for folks in this camp. Reformed Christians of the broader designation don’t seek to think and say exactly what Calvin and the other Reformers thought and said, as the Neo-Reformed tend to do. Instead, they look at how creatively and insightfully the Reformers responded to issues in their context and they seek to respond to our very different context enlightened and inspired by the Reformers’ example.

Even though I’m a happy outsider to the Neo-Reformed system of belief, I have high regard for the broader Reformed tradition – which includes theological giants like Barth, Pannenberg, Bosch, Boesak, Newbigin, and Moltmann. (I know, not any women on the list – that’s a problem in all theology, but thankfully it is beginning to change.)

So, ok, Neo-Reformed can work. But it still implicates the broader Reformed tradition, and the people that McLaren himself looks up to. It’s confusing. And it still doesn’t get to the heart of what the movement in question is all about. It still doesn’t pinpoint the main issue. Brian continues:

Of course, when he calls me a false teacher, he is speaking from his vantage point as an articulate, committed, zealous, and sincere Christian fundamentalist. (I mean “fundamentalist” not in a pejorative sense, but in the tradition of J. Gresham Machen, to whom the author refers.) From that vantage point, he speaks the truth as he sees it.

Yes! That’s it! This movement of conservative/evangelical Calvinistic-Baptist and Presbyterian Christians is most accurately a revival of 1920′s fundamentalism, the historic movement led by the likes of B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and the Hodge brothers at old Princeton Seminary. This self-proclaimed fundamentalist surge was overwhelmingly Calvinistic and unabashedly devoted to the sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation as the essence of the gospel. Concurrently, it was linked to a near-obsession with the inerrancy of Scripture (the verbally and plenarily inspired variety, if you’re keeping score), which led to dogmatic systematic theologies and strict applications in ecclesiology and ethics – including the strong subordination of women in the church and home.

This self-proclaimed fundamentalist movement hinged upon antagonism with “modernist” and “scientific” cultural norms that they felt challenged the authority of Scripture. For decades afterwards, it resulted in antagonism and division in the church as well, as more centrist and progressive people (not to mention liberals) were ousted from the “faithful” fundamentalist movements. Of course, we have all manner of church controversy and splitting occurring right now over similar issues, but interestingly, the conservative entrenchment that calls anything outside of its bounds “liberalism” has its roots in this historic fundamentalist surge.

The inability to see any third way is a uniquely fundamentalist characteristic.

And that is precisely the characteristic that has come to define this current movement of conservative/evangelical Calvinistic-Baptists and Presbyterians.

Here are some other emerging characteristics within this Neo-Fundamentalism (not necessarily universal at all points):

  • Characteristics of Neo-Fundamentalism:
    • Heavy-handed (male) authority structures.
    • Rationalist/Modernist approach to interpreting Scripture.
    • Emphasis on a controlling, wrathful God.
    • Emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation and damnation as the essence of the gospel.
    • Retains the practice of keeping women subordinated to men in most areas of life (otherwise known as "fixed complementarian - not equalitarian - roles of men and women in the home, business, and society).
    • Anti-Science, Anti-Modernism
    • Antagonistic posture toward evolutionary science (and other scientific disciplines).
    • Antagonistic posture toward psychology and psychiatry.
    • Intolerance of/active opposition to feminism and LGBT rights.
    • Christian/church privilege at the expense of legal/safety concerns (e.g., protecting child abusers in the church from law enforcement, defending businesses refusing service to LGBT, anger over lost “rights”/”persecution” in the culture).
    • Denial of systemic racial and gender injustice in Christian institutions or broader culture.
    • Hostility toward any theological variance from the all-controlling God who sovereignly damns the non-elect to eternal torture in hell.
    • Preaches antagonism and division within the church universal (or body of Christ once known as the church Catholic).
    • Emphasis on dogmatic systematic theologies with strict applications in ecclesiology and ethics.
    • Conservative entrenchment that calls anything outside of its dogmatic boundarys “liberalism” and has its roots in this historic fundamentalist surge.
    • An inability to see a third-way.

Again, these things are not true of many denominational Reformed or Calvinistic Christians, especially of the more centrist or progressive variety. And they are not true of the growing contingent of centrist and progressive evangelicals. We certainly have some Neo’s here, like the Neo-Anabaptists. And there are some good old Holiness/Wesleyan folks in our midst too. And the weird charismatic Wesleyan/Anabaptists like myself.

But honestly, I like to simplify us centrist-progressive folks with a more accurate and compelling label.

I call us…the Gangsters of Love.