More on Scot McKnight's Critique of the Neo-Reformed

The i-Monk has weighed in. He writes:

No, Scot is right, and it didn’t take a seminary professor to see it. Dress codes. Young earth creationism. Gothardite approaches to rules. Authoritarianism. Movies are evil and away we go. Find me a Rook deck.

None of this has anything to do with Calvinism. I know it’s tedious and embarrassing to flog one’s own book but I’m going to do it anyway. Recovering the Reformed Confession was written to demonstrate that neither the sort of fundamentalism you’re decrying nor the sort of revivalism that others advocate constitutes genuine Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

I’m quite concerned that folks in those sorts of contexts and settings identify their fundamentalist or revivalist church with “Reformed,” and when they leave it for Alexandria, Rome, or the Emergent Village (see ch. 5 of RRC, “The Joy of Being Confessional”) they think they’ve left the Reformation. They haven’t! They’ve left fundamentalism or revivalism.

There’s an alternative.

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  1. Scott,

    Any Reformed alternative to Fundamentalism is welcomed by me. Although I think what you mean by Reformed practice, piety, and theology is “my” practice, piety, and theology. I think there was quite a breadth of diversity in the Reformed tradition on these matters, but you’re far more of an expert on that subject than I.

    Anyways, guess who is co-contributing to a “5 views” volume on justification?

    • Mike,

      Last I knew, unless Shirley MacLaine is right, time travel is right out. Thus, I didn’t write the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, or the Westminster Standards. Nor did I write the church order of the Palatinate, the Directory for Public Worship, the Genevan or Strasbourg liturgies. Those are all a part of our heritage.

      I hope you’ll take the time to read the book before deciding that it’s all just an exercise in power politics.

  2. …The irony in all of this to me is that its as if Evangelicalism has become a victim of its own “success.” Evangelicalism has grown to the influence it has because of theological minimalism. Evangelicalism has attempted to create its identity by engaging in the theological enterprise outside of confessional and ecclesiastical boundaries. Evangelicalism has decried confessional maximalism because it divides instead of unites. As Evangelicalism has grown in influence, it has reproduced its minimalist effect among those involved who are coming from “Reformed” traditions. Historically, to be “Reformed” was to be a theological maximalist who confessed a common interpretation of scripture. As Evangelicalism’s minimalist leaven has mixed with some of these Reformed folks, they have begun to leave their commonly confessed interpretations of scripture behind and are picking and choosing what they believe to be the “essential” doctrines. Because of this minimalist theological enterprise, they are no longer seeking to do theology in their particular confessional and ecclesiastical side rooms and have brought it into the great hall. But their theological minimalism is still much more maximalist than most non-Reformed. This is not to excuse the behavior, but to suggest that in one way, Evangelicalism is dealing with a situation it created for itself….

  3. Dress codes. Young earth creationism. Gothardite approaches to rules. Authoritarianism. Movies are evil and away we go. Find me a Rook deck.

    He just described my revivalistic upbringing to a T, where Calvinists were routinely denounced from the pulpit. Somebody get this guy a copy of RRC, quick!

  4. Nick,

    Whatever helpful stuff he profers, Monk always strikes me as having an “above the fray” self-perception, always trying to stay 8 feet out in front of every possible problem. Well, sometimes you just have to learn to deal with folks thinking you’re a fundy, a liberal, a Luthern, an antinomian, an unbeliever or a (Dispy) pietist–all of which I get all the time for my Reformed confessionalism.

    However, the first time I walked into a local URC (with WSC ties) here in Little Geneva it had my old IFCA Fundamentalism written up one side and down another. I took it in the teeth when I described that way to some. The fire-breathing diatribes on education alone should be enough to make the case. To be perfectly blunt, if west Michigan URCs are representative of Reformed confessionalism a la RRC, well, all I can say is one needs to go way further west.

  5. That’s interesting Zrim. In my native Glasgow, there isn’t much by way of Reformed Churches to compare with. There is the Free Church of Scotland, but anecdotal evidence from friends suggest that much of what passes for Reformed confessionalism in these places tends to resemble a bland evangelicalism. Fundamentalism here is largely dead. No one cares enough to get worked up!

  6. Nick,

    The ironic thing here, to me, is how one really has to leave the American cradle of the Dutch Reformed in order to find better confessional expressions. It’s almost like the phenomenon of a burned-over district.

    What amazes me is that even the most confessional URC here still has miles to go before she sleeps; yet go two hours north (to my hometown, which is quite un-Dutch) and a fine, young PCA plant in the order of OURC thrives. (She sits down the road from my old IFCA, now mega-church–of course, every crummy little revivalist church has a shiny mega waiting to blossom–where experimenting evangies visit and render it “way too Catholic.”) It’s interesting to me how the most confessional church here is still too funda-revivalist, while disgruntled mega-evangelicals can spring a superior confessional church in two shakes.

  7. Nick,

    I’m not much of a testimony type. Kidding.

    I came to the Reformation about 16 years ago through the works of Horton. I was teaching at a Full-Gospel Penty church school and languishing in the IFCA church I both converted and married into (mid-way through college). It was spring break. I had picked up Beyond Culture Wars after absent-mindedly swinging the stiles once more at the local Xian bookstore; it immediately caught my eye, and I was gobbling it up at the back of the plane. My wife was reading some typical tripe she had picked up. I leaned over and said, “My book says your book sucks.” Reformed jerk from the start.

    My gateway drug, then, was kingdom theology. For most it tends to be soteriology. I was a closet Calvinist and never knew it until Horton, who, it seemed, had been reared in the very church I was banging my head in. His genius was being able to articulate everything I had been frustrated with, advise on even more I was unware of, then explain exactly why that was a problem and what the solution was. If it weren’t for his skills I am fairly sure Reformation theology would have been a cocophany of familiar terms and words that would’ve sounded like just another way of doing evangelicalism. I was so geeked I decided to drag my wife off to seminary half-cocked. But life happened and things went another way.

    That’s the thumbnail. There’s a bit more in the About tab at the Outhouse.

  8. Zrim,

    GR-ites often confuse being Reformed with being Dutch. Being both and having been raised near GR, I grew up theologically confused. Living outside the cradle for the last few years has been a good thing. However, the Dutch Reformed tend to be drawn to each other wherever they live in the U.S. and to recreate the same theological/ethnic confusion. Hence, Dutch bingo is still a favorite at my local CRC in southeast Michigan.

    BTW, what’s the PCA plant you’re referring to?

  9. Zrim,

    Birmingham to be more precise. We enjoy the occasional weekend getaway up north, so we’ll have to make a point to stop by. I’m not sure the last time I’ve seen a “sane” Reformed work. Thanks for the heads up.


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