Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Evangelical Calvinism: Rational and Lifestyle consistency

[continued from here, here and here]

Will we aim for rational and lifestyle consistency?

The inclusion of two emerging-leaning pastors in The Gospel Coalition, Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller, creates cause for concern as to what degree this Gospel-centeredness extends to. Will we aim for rational and lifestyle consistency even in our profession of the Gospel, or will we settle merely for outward compliance to the Gospel and perhaps agreements on the major flashpoints of the culture wars like homosexuality, complementarianism, racism and missions? What makes these flashpoints more worthy of contending for as compared to the other doctrines and practices of Scripture?

In terms of rational consistency, Keller is on the record of supporting the error of Theistic Evolution [25], an anti-biblical theory which undermines the Gospel [26], [27], especially in its belief in death before the Fall, thus falsifying the biblical teaching that death is a consequence of sin (Gen 2:17; Rom. 5:12) and destroying the foundation of the Christian faith. The internal evidence for the historicity of the Genesis account of Creation is so strong and the dependence of other parts of Scripture on the historicity of that account, including our Lord's teaching, that to deny its historicity is to severely undermine the authority of the entire Scriptures[28]. As Dr. Robert Reymond has said:

Scripture in its entirety regards the Genesis account of man's early beginnings and doings as reliable history. The Genesis account of creation is referred to many times elsewhere in the Old and New Testament Scripture ... To call into question the historical reliability of Genesis 1 and 2 is to call into question the trustworthiness of the entirety of Scripture testimony on the issue of origins. The fall of Adam is referred to in Job 31:33, Isaiah 43:27, Hosea 6:7, Romans 5:12-19, Corinthians 11:3, and 1 Timothy 2:14. Cain's murder of Abel is referred to in Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:51, Hebrews 11:4, 1 John 3:12 and Jude 11. Finally, the Genesis flood is referred to in Isaiah 54:9, Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:26-27, Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5, 3:6. To call into question the historicity of Genesis 3-11, then is to call into question the trustworthiness of a great deal of later Scripture testimony..[29]

The Westminster Confession of Faith, which Keller is supposed to believe in since he is in the PCA, states:

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good (WCF, Chapt IV, Of Creation, Para 1. Bold added)[30]

Keller is rationally inconsistent in his belief in Theistic Evolution. At the same time, what he believes is contrary to the official creed of his denomination, which incidentally brings up the issue of confessional integrity but we should not digress. Since Keller is obviously a leader within the New Calvinist movement, this is a serious issue to be considered. This is so especially in light of the call to be Gospel-centered, and the insistence that such would not lead to being Gospel-only. But if the claim is made that Gospel-centeredness precludes Gospel-onlyness because the implications of the Gospel precludes such, then the willingness to be rationally consistent is necessary since that argument (that Gospel-centeredness precludes Gospel-onlyness) assumes logical and rational consistency. The example of Keller in compromising the doctrine of Creation however should give us pause to ask the New Calvinists whether they will practice what they preach, or the proclaimed fidelity to being Gospel-centered is mere lip service than actual belief and commitment, and only has bearings on certain flash-point subjects while neglecting the other essential areas of the Christian faith and practice.

The issue of lifestyle consistency would come to the fore in the case of Mark Driscoll, the most controversial figure in American Christianity nowadays due to his penchant for inappropriate language. Just a cursory look at one of Driscoll's book [31] would be sufficient to cement on most people's minds the reputation of Driscoll as being crass, and Pastor John MacArthur's series on Pulpit Magazine[32] complete with actual links to and citations of Driscoll's sermons on the Songs of Solomon confirms it. Scripture calls us to be holy, as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). What is the point therefore of professing orthodoxy when our lifestyles do not match our doctrines?

In both of these leaders in the New Calvinist movement, we have seen both rational and lifestyle inconsistencies which undermine the Gospel they claim to believe in, not to mention the authority of Scripture over all of life. Will the New Calvinists therefore strive to be consistent in both these areas, and not just pay attention to their profession of the Gospel and the flash-point issues they want to focus on?


[25] Tim Keller, The Reason for God — Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York, New York, USA: Penguin Group, 2008), p. 87-93

[26] Ken Ham, The Lie: Evolution (Green Forest, AR, USA: MAsters Books, 1987)

[27] Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd Ed. (Nashveille, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson, 1998), p. 116-126

[28] Ibid., p. 118

[29] Ibid., p. 118

[30] Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom (3 Vol.) Volume 3, as accessed on e-Sword.

[31] Driscoll, Confessions.

[32] John MacArthur, The Rape of Solomon's Song: Part 1 (, Part 2 (, Part 3 (, Part 4 (, The Shepherds' Fellowship Pulpit Blog

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