Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Calvinism, Driscoll, and who are the Reformed? (updated)

Lots is being said about the Time magazine article, Driscoll's blog and all the spillover (I've already posted twice on it, here and here). Thabiti Anyabwile adds an excellent cautionary note while R.Scott Clark over at The Heidelblog says Driscoll isn't really a Calvinist. The idea of Driscoll applying for membership at Calvin's church in Geneva and being turned down is quite an appealing one.

(I've updated this section for clarity following an email from a friend)

Anyway a few thoughts on the question of 'Who are the reformed?' It seems to me that the 'badge' reformed is now solely owned by Calvinists. When someone asks 'are you reformed?', they're actually asking 'are you a Calvinist?' Reformed is now distinct from Protestant. I guess that's probably helpful. Sort of.

However I wish that those who were reformers (in their various branches) could also be called Reformed. OK so a lot of the churches of the reformation no longer seem to hold to the theology and doctrines of their founders but what of those that do?

Luther was reformed or at least you'd think the man who started the Reformation would be. So was Jacob Arminius in that broad sense. So were many of the Anabaptists - they were seeking to reform the church. And the Quakers. No idea about the Church of England and 500 years after the reformation they still haven't made up their mind either.

A significant moment for me was when doing some training with Newfrontiers was asking Greg Haslam (then pastor in Winchester) whether someone like David Pawson (because of his Arminian Theology) be a leader in Newfrontiers? His emphatic 'Yes' was encouragement to me that this bunch of Calvinists was generous enough to work with other Gospel men on the inside of their movement if opportunity arose. Hopefully that will remain so.


dave bish on 18 March 2009 at 10:19 said...

Much as I like the Spurgeon quote of Calvinism is the gospel, we should recognise that that it is gospel-centricity we should be after... it strikes me that networks, fellowships, churches etc should be centre-bounded sets, with strong bold core convictions that allow us to be biblically narrow to contend for the gospel and biblically broad enough to generously welcome brothers and sisters with whom we differ.

Phil on 18 March 2009 at 10:29 said...

Excellent point, well made sir. Couldn't agree more.

chris smyth on 18 March 2009 at 10:53 said...

It's hard to keep up in the world of New Frontiers blogging! I just came across driscoll's blog on the time magazines top ten ideas that are changing the world, set the post to come out 9:00 tomorrow morning, all excited that i've hit something new and radical here, and now it seems that you guys have been discussing (in far more detail!) it for ever!

Boy am I going to look silly tomorrow come 9:00am!

Keep it up Phil, you guys keep blog trainee's like myself on our toes! Always find your blog very useful mate. Keep it up.

in him

Phil on 18 March 2009 at 11:33 said...

Thanks Chris, if it makes you feel any better, I feel like that as well. There are bloggers out that way faster and in touch than me!

Matthew Hosier on 18 March 2009 at 14:00 said...

Thanks for the updated version Phil - a helpful clarification!

I guess part of what we are dealing with is talking about the Reformation, and the ongoing process of reforming the church, as opposed to 'being Reformed' which does refer to a particular set of doctrinal statements, E.g, adhering to the Westminster Confession.

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

Early in the Reformation the words "Reformed" and "evangelical" were used interchangeably to describe Protestants. By the 1540s, however, though the word "evangelical" continued to be used by the Reformed to describe all confessional Protestants, the word "Reformed" came to denote a specific branch of Protestant churches, those in Switzerland, England, Germany, and elsewhere that identified with Luther's doctrine of justification but who criticized his Christology and his approach to worship.

There was a distinct body of confessions that began to emerge as early as 1523. Today the word "Reformed" denotes those churches that adhere to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort and/or the Westminster Standards.

The word "Reformed' is a bit broader than the word "Calvinist." All Cs are R but, historically anyway, not all Rs are Cs. Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli were Reformed but they weren't Calvinists exactly. Not that there were huge disagreements but they arrived at their views independently of Calvin and their churches (German Swiss) had a different organization.

In N. American circles today, however, the words Reformed and Calvinist are used interchangeably. The difficulty comes with people such as Driscoll who wish to be considered Reformed, who use that label as a marketing tool to position their congregations and movements, but who dissent from the stuff that actually makes one Reformed.

If I wear a Manchester United football jersey but don't follow the team or know the rules of the game, am I a football fan? No. Wearing the jersey isn't sufficient.

Those of us who live and work in Reformed Churches value the adjective. It's not a fad for us because it speaks of who we are, what we believe, how we worship, pray, and relate to other people.

As to ecumenicity, I hate to sound narrow, but the Synod of Dort convened to address the Arminian question precisely because they believed that the gospel of free grace was at stake. If humans are justified by grace and cooperation with grace then justification is no longer free. I understand that there are "Arminians" who are better than that but it's not as if there is no substantive issue at stake.



Phil on 18 March 2009 at 16:29 said...

Hi Scott, thanks for the comment. I appreciate your clarity and helpful pointers for my understanding of reformation history. I should think before I blog a bit more!

And Matt, yes that was exactly what I was trying to say, albeit pretty clumsily!

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