Tribalists All

We may conclude, apparently, that Merritt favors cosmopolitanism to sectarianism.

But what sense does this make of biblical calls for God’s people to isolate themselves. The Israelites weren’t exactly interested — or weren’t supposed to be — in a Jerusalem that featured the best pork barbecue in the Middle East or that encouraged Plato to relocate his academy there. The New Testament threw out the older ethnic hostilities between Jew and Greek, but Paul’s instruction that believers should be separate and distinct from non-believers (2 Cor 6:17) is not necessarily a call to go cosmopolitan. Some believers like Merritt may be strong enough for the collisions with a spectrum of ideas and artistic expressions. But is he a pastor looking out for the good of his flock?

After all, even politicians know that tribalism is what makes groups tick. As Nick Clegg, the British deputy Prime Minister, recently admitted, “at the end of the day, you’ve also got to look after your own side, your own tribe, your own values.” Merritt should not fault New Calvinists for doing something so basically human, not to mention something so obviously important to the integrity of the church, unless he expects Christians to live like writers who reside in New York City.

— D. G. Hart, “Didn’t God Want The Israelites To Be Tribal?

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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One comment

  1. That’s a good point, Dr. Clark. There will always be some polemic, some evidence of what someone disagrees with. I found it interesting that Jonathan Merritt didn’t adequately address one appealing aspect of the New Calvinist movement, which is that God comes to us. He took the initiative in sending Jesus to die for us, and takes the initiative in coming to us in our lives, to regenerate us, even when we were going the wrong way. This has to be factored in.

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