Saturday, December 08, 2007

Growth in infuence of the Reformed truth?

I guess sooner or later I would need to engage with this. In an article featured last year on Christianity Astray Today entitled "Young, Restless and Reformed", an argument was made to show the resurgance of Calvinism within primarily the Southern Baptist Convention. It seems that quite a few Reformed folks and bloggers have been excited about this growing trend. At that time, I didn't exactly mentioned much about it, for the same reasons which I still hold to now. Far from seeing it as a revival and a growth towards Reformation, what I see is a bright speck of light which pales beneath the growing darkness engulfing the Church, all too ready to be snuffed out. Seen in the light of the trends in Christendom, this is something which probably would not lead to widespread revival, but only a strengthening of the Remnant while the others fall away into perdition.

There are a few reasons why I think such is the case. First and foremost is the growth of the Neo-liberal Emerging Church Movement and the death of logical thinking in the churches and in the culture. The neglect and even destruction of true critical thinking for the exchange of the false Dialetical 'critical thinking' contributes to the overall embrace of misology or the hatred of logic, and this can be seen in the post-modern Emerging Church Movement with its post-foundationalist epistemology etc. It has been my suspicion before that some of these so-called 'new Calvinists' are not actually Calvinists at all, and I have recently found one. In a recent post on Pyromaniacs, A Certain Uncertainty, Drew who is in the Emerging Church Movement, have this to say when questioned about whether he held to the 5 points of Calvinism:

Of the 5 points of Calvinism, I hold them all. Total depravity means that every part of me has been touched by sin, and I am NOT a faithful interpreter of scripture. So I question and doubt every conclusion that I reach, and I submit myself to the Holy Spirit, other brothers and sisters in Christ (including saints that have gone before me) and the whole counsel of scripture.

Are these the type of people who are making up part of the increase in those who embrace Calvinism? What's the use of embracing the 5 points while denying the clarity, sufficiency and authority of Scripture? Of course, that sentence of his is illogical, since as it can be seen, he doesn't doubt what he thinks the 5 points are teaching, and of course not the certainty of his uncertainty. Later on, he states he doubts this even, yet it does not show in his manner and language. (After all, if you doubt even your own uncertainty, would you still comment and defend it?). Either he is a hypocrite, or he is pathologically illogical by so doing.

It is primarily because of this that I am very skeptical of any true resurgance. That there is a resurgance in Calvinist thought is indeed true, but that it is indeed something really strong and robust is more hype than reality. And why should we believe the rosy picture that Christianity Astray paints of this movement? Christianity Astray is notorious for hyping certain things higher than what the reality warrants, and of course deprecating the seriousness of any heretical wind that is blowing through the New Evangelical landscape. Witness the near deafening silence of the New Evangelicals against the heresy of Open Theism. Sure, there may be voices indicating disapproval, but to denounce Open Theism as heresy and its promoters as heretics? Forget it!

Secondly, it is a well-known fact that people such as Piper are not thoroughly orthodox. Calvinist he indeed is, and he is indeed a solid preacher, as an off-white candle is the whitest when compared to a bunch of dark colored ones; in other words he is good not because he is really good but because there are few good pastors and theologians around. Piper through his promotion of the two wills of God and common grace is a Neo-Amyraldian, and thus is not totally orthodox. Also, his association with people in the Emerging Church Movement, while not exactly compromising, does not particularly show a clear break away from the movement, resulting in probable so-called 'Calvinist' Emergents like Drew above.

Thirdly, this is going on mainly in the Southern Bapist Convention. While the largest Evangelical denomination currently in the US, the fact of the matter is that it is not Reformed. Its foundation is indeed Calvinistic, and people such as Al Mohler are Calvinists, but Reformed it is not. The most it promotes New Covenantal Theology, and as such it most probably deny such teachings as the Covenant of Works and definitely Infant Baptism, hallmarks of historic Covenantal Theology. Without Covenantal Theology, the movement cannot be termed Reformed with a captial 'R'. Theology has consequences, and while these are not doctrines which we should split on, the fact of the matter is that a strong robust Reformation in my opinion is impossible without the embrace of Covenantal Theology, coupled with a repudiation of the distortion resulting from an inbalance placed on the importance of the Local Church. With regards to the former, Covenantal Theology provides a strong foundation for the Doctrines of Grace to stand upon. With regards to the latter, I will mention more about it in the future, but suffice it is to say for the moment that an overemphasis on the Local Church would contribute to the inward looking 'Ostrich-type' separatism characteristic of most Reformed churches in Singapore.

As such, in conclusion, I am extremely skeptical of any true robust resurgence in Calvinism, nevermind the Reformed faith. Despite the rose-tinted glasses of some, I do not share their optimism. Perhaps in time to come, something really robust would emerge, but as it is currently, nothing of much substance can be seen.

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