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Mar 14, 2013

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Louis

Thanks for posting this.

I agree with Dever's analysis as to why Reformed Soteriology is finding an audience with younger people today.

I also agree with Frank Page - I would rather not discuss it. The reason is that it is divisive, and the discussions go nowhere.

I also agree with Dr. Vines that it is wrong to try to force the SBC in a direction on this.

So, where does that leave us.

It leaves us with different camps, different speakers and different emphases in SBC life, as it has always been.

And those speakers who are successful in communicating the Gospel to a new generation, and are successful in discipling a new generation of preachers are going to influence more poeple to think as they do.

We all travel in our various circles, and are exposed to what we run into and participate in.

From my perspective, I see more young people looking to guys like Dever and Mohler, not because of their Reformed theology, but because Dever and Mohler are good communicators to that generation. The Reformed theology follows. I am trying to remember, but I have heard Dever and Mohler speak in meetings many times, and I have never heard them discuss Reformed theology. The topics are usually basic topics that all Baptists would agree upon. They are just good spokesmen.

I don't know if this is accurate either, but it is my perception that Southern has become a very popular seminary in SBC life because of Mohler's ability to connect with young people.

The Together for the Gospel conferences, Dever's 9 Marks ministry and others like that have also connected to young people. I think that the last Together for the Gospel conference attendance records rivaled the SBC annual meeting.

These meetings and organizations are not perfect by any means, as I am sure subsequent posters will point out.

For purposes of this discussion, however, I simply noting the presence of these men and ministries and noting their success.

So, I agree with Dr. Vines that no one should try to "force" the SBC to do this or that.

But as each side works to make disciples in a way that they believe Jesus would have them do, they are going to have an influence.

And influence and persuasion is not only allowable, but something the SBC should welcome, since it is a democratic deliberative body.

Having said all of this, I believe this movement is generational and will fade in a decade or so and give way to other issues.

I believe that the SBC would be better served spending time on other issues. One issue close to my heart is how the internet is affecting the need for or the change is strategy regarding overseas missions. I still believe we need personnel on the ground overseas, but how can we leverage the internet to help disciple others and to reach into countries that may be closed.

I have other matters to that I would like to see the SBC think more carefully about.

Good post.

Max

I find myself agreeing with Louis when he says "I see more young people looking to guys like Dever and Mohler ... because Dever and Mohler are good communicators to that generation ... The Together for the Gospel conferences, Dever's 9 Marks ministry and others like that have also connected to young people."

Communicators = Influencers. There is no doubt that reformed leaders are connecting with the 20s-30s in SBC ranks and elsewhere. The reformed movement has extremely good communicators with the power to influence. On the other hand, SBC "traditionalists" can't effectively challenge the charisma and appeal of the reformers with the cast of characters we have in place. Granted, there are some stars and rising stars in majority SBC ranks, but the ability to attract youth falls to the New Calvinism momentum.

Dr. Eric Hankins in his recent interview with SBC Today puts it this way: "New Calvinists have communicated their vision for soteriology voluminously. No stone has been left unturned. They have several conferences and organizations for fellowship, interaction, and transmission of their views that are very effective. Traditionalists don’t have anything like that organization and, therefore, the impression is that there aren’t any other real players in this debate."

While we have been entertaining our youth with pizza and videos, the message and methods of New Calvinism got their attention. SBC traditional leaders are just now seeing this ... ten years too late. It's going to be tough to draw the generation back. But God ...

Lydia

Max, What is the overall theme/message of New Calvinism?


Max

Lydia - I'm finding that the reformed movement under the banner of "New" Calvinism comes in various flavors. My experience via SBC church plants I have directly observed in my area are populated primarily with the young, restless and reformed in their 20s-30s. They essentially embrace the fundamentals of 16th century "old" Calvinism, but adapt message, method, and missiology to be "culturally relevant." Their "influencers" include Piper, Keller, Driscoll and certain SBC Calvinist notables like Mohler, Dever, and Chandler. I try to avoid stereotypes, but the SBC New Calvinist churches in my vicinity have plurality of elders governance, cool Driscoll-type preachers, black stages with loud bands, doctrines of grace soteriology, no invitation/sinner's prayer, and members packing ESV bibles. Sermons by their pastors are more about God than Jesus, if you follow me (sovereignty vs. personal relationship). Thus, theme/message is Calvinist, with a 21st century appeal.

Debbie Kaufman

Max: You do have a good point and one thing I disagree with Calvinists on. Although Christ is emphasized, God is emphasized many times to the exclusion of Christ. Grace living is not emphasized much, if at all. That is a very important omission and one I disagree with being more of a New Covenant believer.

Mary

Max, I have seen two types of NC in my area. Those you describe, but another type that seems to be more liturgical - they want to go back to worship as the Puritans did it. Changing up the order of service and the songs are not modern. Still the elders and also they are bringing back the suit and ties and looking down on congregants who are not dressed "properly"

But also I've noticed the emphasis on the Sovereignty of God and there is a just a complete lack of acknowledgement of Christ' work on the cross. Not a lot of cross, but a lot of words about God's wrath and holiness and how wretched and depraved mankind is. A lot of "sin-finding" - if you cross your eyes it must be because you have some secret sin in your life type of attitude. And of course both types of NC that I've seen are focused on "community" which means that members of churches have to be in a "community care group" or a "gospel group" where the leaders keep tabs on who is doing what, who members are hanging around with and watching for anyone who might dare think of disagreeing with the doctrine of the church.

Max

Mary writes "... members of churches have to be in a ... "group" ... where the leaders keep tabs on who is doing what ..."

Oh yes, that is the model used in my area as well. They call them "LifeGroups" here. LG leaders are hand-picked by the elders and receive doctrinal training from them. They meet weekly for study and fellowship using teaching materials blessed by the elders - usually a study based on a Piper or Keller book. Seems harmless enough format, but I hear of some "shunning" of members who exit after deciding such church is not for them ... "if they went out from us, they were not part of us" nonsense. A lot of the members I know were formerly "emergent" (Rob Bell followers), but would now call themselves "resurgent" (Driscollites).

Mary, I haven't experienced the NC model you refer to "... bringing back the suit and ties and looking down on congregants who are not dressed "properly" ..." Sounds scarier than the model I described, which doesn't have much of a dress-code. Whew! This ain't my mama's church anymore!

Debbie Kaufman

But also I've noticed the emphasis on the Sovereignty of God and there is a just a complete lack of acknowledgement of Christ' work on the cross. Not a lot of cross, but a lot of words about God's wrath and holiness and how wretched and depraved mankind is. A lot of "sin-finding"

Again Mary, some good points although I would disagree that Christ and the cross are not spoken of quite often. They do. I do believe strongly in the sovereignty of God and do believe that should be emphasized as scripture emphasizes it many many times. But I do see Christ not mentioned as often as I believe he should be. His work on the cross changed everything. It is why I also believe the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament and not the other way around. Good points however, I admit.

Lydia

Hey Max, I agree with your characteristics and can add quite a few. I was really focusing more as a movement.

We can never forget how handy it is to have seminary, pastors colleges, training programs at ones disposal to ingrain certain thinking.

The theme of the NC movement is "exclusivity of the truth" WITHIN Christendom. That is where the cage stage comes from. That is where the in your face and the despotic nature of their heros is not that big of a deal type thinking.

What is the common denominator of movements of youth throughout history? They have a common enemy. It really did start out as a quiet revolution but young men full of testosterone and untested don't stay quiet when only they have truth and all these others within their larger group (who in many cases susidized their education) do not. All the conferences, books, etc, where not LOVE is the theme and encouraged but their brand of truth. Their definition of God's Sovereignty is dangerous to those around them who do not define it the same way.

Their truth is more important than actual people. (doctrine over people)

We have not even begun to have seen the fall out from this movement. SGM is just the beginning. And you know what? The Reformed world does not care. They are promoting and protecting Mahaney. They like his brand of people control.

Until we are ready to deal with the elephant in the room, it will only get worse.

Louis

These are all interesting comments and observations about the shortcomings of some new Reformed movement and church plant expressions in the SBC.

I am not finding fault in any of these expressions, but let me suggest that simply diagnosing the shortcomings of one's opponents is not a formula for success in offering something different.

I believe that the traditionalists in the SBC should take note of these shortcomings, and then offer something different and more attractive as an alternative. That will eventually translate into influence.

I am not sure the traditionalists have found their feet yet. They seem to spend most of their time debating Calvinism. That is necessary, but if the discussion never moves beyond debate, then the traditionalists are unwittingly playing into the hands of the Calvinists. They are debating on the subject of Calvinism, and thus, have allowed the Calvinists to set the terms of the debate.

They also spend too much time on debate rather than constructing a fresh, alternative approach.

There are non- Calvinist Christian speakers who have great influence with young people. Andy Stanley, for example, is one. But most of the traditionalists don't like him either.

The other problem may be that traditionalists are too traditional.

If traditionalists are not only non-Calvinistic, but also wedded to certain cultural forms of Christian expression that were dominant in 1940 or so, that is fine. There is plenty of room for that in different quarters of the U.S. But it should be realized, I believe, that unless a strong case can be made for those cultural forms being biblically necessary, hanging on to them means that the traditionalists are going to reach an ever smaller and smaller demographic.

I am not trying to be too hard on traditionalists. I am simply saying that to have influence that leads to change, I believe the traditionalists need a plan for holding on to the older generation and reaching the newer generation.

Of course, the traditionalists can opt for continuing to emphasize debate, and then taking that debate down the political route in the SBC. There has been some attempt at that. But it hasn't worked out well so far, and I am not sure that doubling down on it will prove successful.

If a new plan doesn't emerge soon, you are likely to eventually see Russell Moore as President of New Orleans Seminary, and after a few years of that, the traditionalist influence will wane further in Louisiana.

Finally, one other thing that I will mention is that the rhetorical pounding Paige Patterson and SWBTS have taken over the years have had a great impact. It wasn't more that 4 or so years ago that all of the internet vitriol was against Dr. Patterson and SWBTS. I believe that hurt the traditionalist cause. Many have turned their attention now more toward the Reformed movement in the SBC, but I believe it will take 4 or 5 years for the effect to be felt. And even then, I am not sure what the outcome will be.

Lydia

"I believe that the traditionalists in the SBC should take note of these shortcomings, and then offer something different and more attractive as an alternative. That will eventually translate into influence"

That is the problem. You see it as about political power and influence. Too many see it that way and that is why we are where we are today.


I think the biggest mistake the Trads can make is to trot out Patterson and others as leaders of a Trad movement. Many folks have huge problems with them as they should because as much as we don't like to admit it, some of the CR was about them having power, too. And quite frankly, he has made some terrible decisions along the way.

It just becomes man centered once again and about following leaders which is really not a Baptistic stance.

One thing we could do that would send a message is to start having nobody SBC pastors preaching at the Pastors conference. It has become a celebrity joke.

What we need to do is to find a way to regain our Traditional beliefs in soul competency, the priesthood and being Bereans. We need to stop following man. Period.

Personally, I think the SBC is pretty much spiritually dead as an entity. That does not include individiual churches. People have lost interest in the "denomination" aspects of it. I know several pastors who don't even attend the convention anymore. Let's face it, the dwindling convention by the pew sitters attendance is a sign.

It seems that now it is about who gets the silver in the great divorce.

Max

"... if the discussion never moves beyond debate, then the traditionalists are unwittingly playing into the hands of the Calvinists ... I believe the traditionalists need a plan for holding on to the older generation and reaching the newer generation".

Louis has come close to nailing SBC's dilemma on the head. Debating is not preaching the Gospel. It is possible to contend for the faith without being contentious. The Gospel truth proclaimed from SBC pulpits used to capture the hearts of multi-generations. SBC churches have largely lost their way in message and mission that once marked our denomination with a gift of evangelism.

If you look across the blogosphere, the destiny of 16 million Southern Baptists (OK, only 6-8 million really) rests on the words of less than 100 voices on each side of this argument. While some are contending, most are contentious.

To turn this thing around, we need nothing less than a genuine revival, with a widespread outbreak of humility, prayer and repentance. "IF My People ... THEN Will I." However, I don't see much move in this direction ... that's the movement we need in our ranks - something that is spiritual and not theological.

peter

All

I appreciate the good exchange here. I'm keeping up when I can. Wish I could participate, but alas...

Lydia

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2013/03/trends-in-the-religious-unaffiliated-the-nones-by-age/

Check this out. Without this age group, churches have no money. Are they paying attention?

I was so glad to see someone attempting to measure this because I am seeing it all around me. The middle aged and above are leaving church. Some of my friends are considering it, too, because no one wants to fight the subtle creeping determinist god filter they see coming in. They don't want to have to ask why they are promoting Mahaney books. And they are in non Cal churches because once you hire from SBTS, it starts happening slowly.

I am also concerned about the fall out from the determinist god paradigm. That paradigm is great for the young guy who plans to make his living with it because it brings him power but young thinkers, with no other belief foundation, who take it to it's practical application tend to become serious athiests. I have met quite a few of them on Ex Christians and locally.

I do not think we have begun to take into consideration the fall out from this movement. Historically, Calvinism goes liberal or dies out. We can track this with history!

You have a few groups like the OPC who stay insulated and rabid but for the most part, the paradigm moves into areas like social justice or remain a sort of insulated frozen chosen type of group, etc. But the rabid movements produce a lot of fall out. What happened to the Puritans over time? Their descendents became totally unruly! They even had to dumb down church attendance rules so they would have people in them once they had more freedom in attending or not.

If the determinist god is the only foundation for how one views the Triune God, you have lost them for quite a while if not forever. Because we DO have free will.

Jim G.

This is a very insightful comment stream, and you have highlighted the way forward for the traditionalist, if he or she should choose to accept it.

But first the traditionalist movement needs to internally clarify aims. Is the aim theological truth or SBC power? I cannot help with the latter, but I know how to deal with the former.

There is a gigantic, yet often hidden, theological weakness that runs through Augustinianism (which of course includes our SBC Calvinists). When Augustine was busy constructing his doctrine of God in "de Trinitate" and his doctrines of nature and grace in "ad Simplicianum," he was unaware of how much influence his neo-Platonic philosophy had on his thinking. Consequently, he forulated his doctrines according to neo-Platonic thought patterns rather than on biblically-revealed ones. Let me illustrate but one example:

When Augustine was attempting to explain the Trinity, instead of looking at what God has done in the economy of salvation (The Father sending the Son who sends the Spirit into the world and the hearts of men), he looked inward to the human soul and said the human memory, understanding, and will are the best way to understand the Trinity. this tri-fold division was well known in pagan (neo-Platonic) metaphysics. He then proceeded to interpret the revelation of God through this imposed pagan metaphysical superstructure. Aquinas does something similar in importing Aristotelian metaphysics into the "Summa."

What we have in Augustinianism, as a result, is a theological breach between who God is "in himself" (because the controlling systems of thought in the "doctrine of God" are philosophical imports to the faith via Augustine and subsequently Aquinas) and who God is, in Christ and the Spirit, "for us." That is why your Augustinian YRR-type spends more time talking about "God" than about Jesus. The important theological doctrines, for the Augustinian, belong in who God is in himself rather than who he is for us. They operate with an unconscious dualism between the creator in his "glory" and the created world which is light-years from that glory. Jesus, as God's revelation "for us," has been relegated to second-tier status when speaking about God. I repeat, "God in himself" for the Augustinian (and usually completely unwittingly) trumps "God for us." It has played out that way since the high middle ages in Augustinian thinking. If you do not agree, pick up any Reformed theology book and compare how many pages are used to describe God in himself and how many are used to disclose the doctrine of the Trinity. I rest my case.

The traditionalist needs to heal the breach, and can do so by preaching and teaching a solidly triune doctrine of holism between Father and Son. God really is whom Jesus reveals. If Jesus loves sinners, then God must love sinners. If Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, then God cannot be dispassionate toward his creation. If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, then God must want the lost to be found, rather than decreeing and executing their very lostness. If the traditionalist is able to exploit the built-in weakness of how the Augustinian views God, and do so in a way that is attractive to a world without Christ, then the traditionalist will win the day. The huge theological blind-spot of the Augustinian (because its roots lie in paganism rather than in God's self-revelation) can be its very undoing. Time will tell if that happens.

Jim G.

Debbie Kaufman

Lydia: Calvinism has never died out. There have always been strong Calvinists all over the world. The UK for example has always been strong Calvinist as well as some European countries. In the United States(which it seems everyone is looking at to the exclusion of others) Calvinism has always been strong except for a time when Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism were predominant for a short period of history.

The soteriology of Calvinism is found throughout scripture in my opinion. Traditionalism is not the answer either.

Jim G, I would have to disagree. Augustine was a born again Christian. His conversion quite a wonderful and remarkable story. His writings were anything but pagan rooted. You continue to rewrite history.

Debbie Kaufman

As for the title "The Calvinists Are Here", that publication was full of distortions the first time it was published. It was an ugly piece designed to destroy but it failed. I doubt it will do it's intent this time either. In fact it may damage those who are pushing it than those they are trying to destroy.

Lydia

"They operate with an unconscious dualism between the creator in his "glory" and the created world which is light-years from that glory. Jesus, as God's revelation "for us," has been relegated to second-tier status when speaking about God. I repeat, "God in himself" for the Augustinian (and usually completely unwittingly) trumps "God for us." "

Jim, that is the best articulation I have ever seen!

"God really is whom Jesus reveals. If Jesus loves sinners, then God must love sinners. If Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, then God cannot be dispassionate toward his creation. If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, then God must want the lost to be found, rather than decreeing and executing their very lostness."

Exactly! I tell folks if they want to know God look to Jesus of Nazareth.


thanks Jim. You articluate things so well.

Lydia

Debbie, I agree with you that there have always been "Calvinists" since the time of Calvin. As a movement of history though it does ebb and flow and reinvent itself. It is a fascinating study.

"The UK for example has always been strong Calvinist as well as some European countries."

As to Europe and England, I am not sure what you mean. Religion was completely politicized in the history of both and what we see now is the result of such. Are you suggesting Henry the 8th became a Calvinist to Marry Anne Boleyn? :o) I am not so sure he was a Calvinist. Anglican beginnings are very murkey on that score. It was more of an outward change than inward, anyway. Not something to be proud of but about power. Using God as a means to the end.

Are you familiar with Augustine? I have read a lot about his life and some of his writings. I have also begun to delve into early Christian beliefs/practices before AD 300. There is a marked difference as Jim points out. I fear once you get the Augustinian filter it is hard to see past it.

Do you realize that AFTER he was born again, he banished his long time concubine with whom he had a son? He would not marry her because of her low social status and she was never able to see her son again. And Augustine wrote how much he loved her. Whereas the early Christians were taking in women like his long time concubine. The contrast in thinking, practice, etc is sharp. And what about the Donatists?

Bill

Reading Gerald Harris always makes me smile. I remember Al Mohler was the better editor. Harris got it wrong then and it is still wrong now.

Lydia

"While elder might work well for some churches, James MacDonald, a self-proclaimed Calvinist and member of the advisory board for LifeWay’s Sunday School curriculum, writes, “Congregational government is an invention and tool of the enemy of our souls to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.”

James MacDonald was one of the contributors/Advisors to the Gospel project for Lifeway.

There is a blog dedicated to him called the Elephantdebt" that is focused on the massive debt the "elders" got that church into.

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