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Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Puritan Sailor, Sep 3, 2009.
The Nameless One - Reformation21
Great blog post on the new calvinism movement.
Except for his unwarranted attacks on Dabney and Thornwell Carl Trueman is just spot on with just about everything he says and writes.
Thanks for this Rev. Patrick.
-----Added 9/3/2009 at 10:38:03 EST-----
To me this was the "key" paragraph:
Unwarranted attacks on me as well. I'll have you know I've never personally preached a stinker of a sermon. They've all been solid gold.
Actually, one of the truly humbling things the Lord does is when you've preached a sermon but it's be "less than stellar" (so you think), and a member of your congregation later tells you that the Lord used that sermon in a truly great way in his/her life. Then you know that you are but the mouthpiece and it is the Spirit who moves and teaches and applies His wonderful word.
As a former mainliner this quip gave me a good belly laugh:
That was really really excellent.
I look at one quasi Reformed denomination where many young guys shaved off their head to look like the bald guy at the top, and I just cringe.
I disagree with one part though....the routine of the ordinary, the boring, the plodding, is actually the norm for church life
I don't think God intended us for hype and the big conference mentality, but I don't think boring and plodding is normal either. I find living for the Lord to be interesting and eventful and fulfilling...maybe a great book or a rich time in the Word, or feeling led to pray for somebody and finding out why later, or ministering to somebody who is challenging. Maybe a great sermon at church, or a good pulpit prayer or a good conversation with someone.
Kind of like marriage....yeah, after 30 years mine is ordinary routine a lot, but never boring or plodding; I really love the guy and he loves me and it is satisfying rich companionship. Life with God and the church should be like that to some extent. When church gets boring and plodding there is something wrong, and we need to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The answer isn't all the hype, but it isn't OK to be plodding along boring, without joy and rejoicing either.
Talk about cults of personality. If it wears a powdered wig, it gets better reading from some of yall here on the PB.....some of you all that would bash Piper, Macarthur, and those others clumped into "The New Calvinism." Maybe Piper ought to wear a powdered wig.
Also, it is ironic to complain of more sermons being printed, while some of you have the complete Metro Tabernacle Pulpit bending down your poor bookshelves at home and have collected virtually every sermon in existence for Manton, Owen, Spurgeon, etc. And what's wrong with conferences? These hardly seem to be the dangers of our age.
Cult of personalities? Trueman admits, when he mentions that Luther, Calvin, et al, were key figures in the reformation. During times of change, key figures always arise.
I can't imagine that conferences, and lots of printed sermons can be a bad thing.
Not sure of the validity of the points he brings out. His article seemed just a waste of time. He either needs to make his article into a critique of the New Calvinism for reasons other than its popularity, or he needs to make his piece into a reminder that it is the dull, routine labor of nameless servants that advances the Gospel. He tries to do both and I am left wondering what his one main point is...is it (1) that New Calvinism is bad (and why? Because it is popular and has dynamic leaders), or, (2) is it mainly an encouragement for us unknown servants to keep pushing on, whether we gain popularity or not?
Yes, the nameless ones always push forward the work of the church. That doesn't make Calvin, Luther and those other Reformation-era celebrities bad even though it was the bible-smugglers and poor Paris priests turning protestant that helped spread the flame of the reformation for the most part. Neither should it make us look for reasons to despise Piper, Mohler, or the other New Calvinists for helping Calvinism hit the mainstream.
-----Added 9/3/2009 at 11:50:13 EST-----
I give the Lord plenty of opportunities to get all the glory then!
I must be so out of it.....is Piper considered in this group? I love Piper, and I don't think he is greedy for money or adoration...quite the opposite. And he isn't new, he's been this way for a long time. Jonathan Edwards diet lite, I call him.
I thought it was the guys in their 30s like Josh Harris, with all the kids in their 20s flocking to them, that are the New Calvinists. No? If he's bashing Piper then I'll agree with you Pergy.
I'm recently seeing all this from recently coming in from isolation; I don't know who any of these people are except Piper, who I only heard of within the past 6 months! (My pastor has said I need to get more balance by reading from more authors who lived after the 17th century and maybe he was right ) But coming onto the PB I have been struck with how some "celebrities" can do no wrong and an apparent lack of discernment in individual writings once a celebrity has been categorised as "right on", and they are read wearing "agreement-spectacles".
I would read Trueman before Piper or John Mac. It matters not what wig they wear or their popularity to me. I am not a big Piper fan nor am I a MacArthur Fan. I am a Baptist and would still prefer Trueman. He is a better Scholar. I do not follow the modern trends nor am I just satisfied with the most recent books. It has nothing to do with personality. It has everything to do with being correct and biblical.
What ever happened to the Gospel of the Kingdom, the RPW, Covenant Theology, and the Confessions. They are not the norm of the New Calvinism which really isn't Calvinism.
On most critiques of the New Calvinism, the true "Nameless One" is Mark Driscoll and all critics paint the whole movement by his most extreme antics. Like the over-the-top Peter Masters screed about worldy calvinists, they seem to take the worst of Driscoll, caricaturize it, and then paint the whole movement in the same light.
Driscoll is the convenient punching bag of those that want to run down this great resurgence of sovereign grace we see in our land. I myself am glad to see God being glorified; print every Piper sermon you want, it is not too much.
. . . "Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."
So, are you saying that one must hold to the RPW, Covenants and be Confessional to be a Calvinist?
Surely you over-speak. Maybe, you are referring to that copy-righted moniker "Reformed" I believe, but the term "Calvinist" I think merely refers to adherance to the Five Points. So, Piper IS a Calvinist, is he not?
I think he needs to stop pouring sour milk into his corn flakes .
True Calvinism is more than the 5 points in my understanding. It also has to do with the person and work of Christ. Who is Christ and what did he accomplish is neglected when someone looks at the picture and denies the Covenant of Works and Christ's fulfillment of it. I refer to the RPW because we are redeemed for something. Reconciliation does expect us to be set up in a right relationship and how God expects us to approach and worship him. Confessional has to do with how this works together in a whole setting. I think one must look at everything as a whole instead of just bits and pieces that makes them appear to be a certain way.
For instance, there is a new church in town that carries the label Reformed Baptist in its name and it is not a Reformed Baptist Church. It adheres to New Covenant Theology. They may be Sovereign Grace oriented but they are not seeing the whole picture as Calvin would.
Maybe I have been reading too much lately. And maybe my definitions are getting a bit too narrow while expanding in understanding at the same time. I can say this though, like you Pergy, I don't live in an Ivory tower. My faith and understanding have walking power and my theology has caused me to persevere and know Him. It is living. It isn't just knowledge for knowledge's sake. And when one looks at the Institutes they will see that is exactly what Calvin was about.
When one looks at the 5 points it has to do with who God is, the atonement, and walking with God. It is more than just 5 simple statements.
Sour Milk? Where is the Mr. Yuk smiley?
I save him for Osteen
As always, Trueman demonstrates that he is an excellent writer in form and style... But in terms of his content, I agree with your assessment.
I'll have you know I'm the only one passing out powdered wigs on this forum. If Piper wants to don one, he's got to come to me!
Could this not lead us to the alternate conclusion that Trueman is correct, and that his criticism ought to be applied more evenly across our traditions? I for one think it is ridiculous for a non-specialist to read everything a prolific theologian ever wrote, especially when that means ignoring whole traditions in theology. Breadth and eclectic selectivity are virtues.
One other thought is that becoming Reformed is often a very slow process. You have a debate about predestination in college and finally have to admit election. You know every verse about falling away and getting your name blotted out of the Lamb's book of life, but do more reading and finally end up P. Limited atonement takes a while, maybe a long while, but eventually you embrace it. And of course you started out pre trib rapture, I mean, its almost canon, but you get exposed to Covenant theology and finally turn from dispensationalism. Switching credo to paedo is usually the slowest change of all. Then there is the service, and how it is done, and altar calls and testimony times and how conversion is understood. Then there was/is a huge emphasis on fighting Satan and battling the devil, and you process that through with the help of CCEF type books and rethink where the main problem is, like your sinful idolatrous heart.
I think that we should be happy for every step in the right direction. Just the solas, just election, it is all good. Every little bit of truth being taught is something to be glad about. Just grasping sovereignty is a major breakthough. We should all be praying a lot for people in process. All of us are in process, we all are learning and rethinking.
I thought the article was very good, and very much needed. I wish we would see more of these types of critiques.
I also think there is a huge difference between "heroes" like Luther and Calvin who contributed tremendous substance to the Christian faith and church, often at great personal cost to themselves, and many of the aggressively marketed, popular preachers of today.
Luther and Calvin led the church out of its "Babylonian captivity", restored the gospel, and changed the course of Christian and world history. Many after them also fought defining battles for the faith. People have their sermons on their shelves, because they have lasting value that has only increased with time.
On the other hand, there is certainly value in the ministries of today's super apostles, but it is also a legitimate question as to whether their popularity is proportional to their actual contributions, and whether there might not also be some unhealthy effects from focusing excessively on personalities like this.
Christians, of whatever stripe, all face the common tendency to read their theological heros (of whatever era or theological party) with less than needed care. As I see it an argument can be made for taking greater care when reading a theological hero than when reading a known heretic, were that possible.
Trueman's warning on the "cult of personality" is very timely. In this age of instant communication/publication/dissemination, it is a real tempatation for ministers and laypersons. We have to admit that here on the Puritan Board, we fall into it this on occasion.
This can be seen on 2 fronts.
For ministers, with the instant "stardom" it can promise, does undue attention to blogging, publishing, or writing, conferencing, etc. take away from the pastoral work to which he's called--the quiet, behind the scenes pastoral work? Does the minister guard against even appearing to be engaged in shameless self-promotion? Is he motivated to build this "cult of personality"?
For the lay-person: do we get so wrapped into the hot blogs, or follow such and such particular man, to the extent we think everything they do "rocks", or get unreasonably defensive when our "star" is criticized? Or are we willing to examine our "fav" man's writing in the light of scripture and our confessions?
This is a growing problem.
We've noted the same problem here repeatedly. We see, in the aggregate, men who proclaim themselves Reformed but lack any grounding in a Confession. "Calvinism", to many, is an eclectic grouping of preferences with a general leaning toward the Sovereignty of God.
Just the last couple of days I've been excoriated by a self-appointed apologist for Calvinism. Couldn't play by the rules here and now I'm confined to outer darkness by the fellow. I could re-produce dozens of such e-mails through the Contact Form.
The Pastor of our overseeing Church is a long-suffering patient man who has a 30+ year ministry. He recounted a recent Presbytery meeting with a young Pastor who confidently asserted "I believe the Bible teaches this..." and exclaimed how he was going to change the Church. Doug patiently reminded him that it's not about "me" but about "us". We, the Church, ought to be working toward to unity of the faith. That idea (taught clearly in Ephesians 6) is lost on some who treat theology as a me and the Bible and my favorite group of expositors.
I agree with the sentiment that life under the Cross is lived out in very ordinary ways. It is a "day on, stay on" battle and labor for the Lord. It is unglamorous and I believe that ministers often take an undue "beating" because they don't have the flash bang effect that some are constantly craving.
I'd like to remind everyone that guys like John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll... on and on I could go...
These guys ministered week in and week out for years before they ever caught the public eye.
So please don't act like these guys are just glory-seeking charlatans.
But I do agree with Trueman's assessment that these guys, and their "success," represent an exception to the rule.
You make a very good point, Ben.
I thought we dealt with the powdered wig thing the other day? Look, John Goodwin and Tobias Crisp presumably had powdered wigs in their closet, but we are (mostly) not well acquainted with either one of them. I doubt there was a lot to choose from in the way Arminius dressed over against Junius, but a lot of us can't bear to read the weasely one. So when we are reading people from the past, the tendency is to read the cream of the crop. In the tumult of the contemporary it's not always clear who is going to rise to the top of the refiner's crucible and get skimmed off as dross, and who is going to remain.
Trueman's point about sermons was that not everything that everybody says is worthy to be preserved and published and sold. That seems like it should be a pretty uncontroversial remark.
You raise the cult of personalities, and then talk about key figures. But look again at what Trueman actually said:
Yes, undoubtedly there were some breathless Lutherans; but that doesn't mean that Luther encouraged or profited from those groupies. There being key persons, persons of vast influence, is not the same thing as there being a cult of personality. And the key persons need to try to restrain such an attitude if it should arise.
Trueman spells out why conferences can be a bad thing. He is looking at the negative impact that excitement can have when the stimulus for it disappears.
I'm wondering why you're wondering what his main point is when he stated it flat out?
What he's driving at is that here is a popular movement, that gets a lot of things right. There are some dangers in that movement, which he identifies and explains (and it's always good to have someone saying, "There could be a downside to this"). But his point is that time will enable us to tell whether what they get right is of the essence of the movement, or whether it is accidental (in the sense of non-essential). If all this excitement and movement should turn out not to be genuine, though, we can still be encouraged: it's not the end of the world, because those who do the bulk of the work, though their profile is so low as to be unnoticeable, will still carry on just the same as always.
Why do you assume that people are looking for reasons to despise anyone? I think that is problematic on multiple levels. It isn't very charitable towards the cautious, for one thing, because it assumes that they are looking: in other words, that before finding any reason they are determined to dislike, and so hunt out a rationalization for it. It's possible to see problems without doing any looking beyond what Paul requires of us all in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. It's also possible to see problems without despising (as Paul didn't despise those whom he felt compelled to baptize in Acts 19, though there was obviously a problem with their theology before he came along to straighten them out).
I'm not sure how Driscoll is supposed to be nameless in Dr. Trueman's article, given his explicit mention by name! Look again at the qualifications Trueman made:
To me it seems like you have an image in your mind about TR people, and when anyone hints that the YRR have something to learn; or that Paul's warning about party spirit is applicable in our own days; or that someone dead got something right and we've since largely forgotten that, you assume that they are Cult of Powdered-Wig, Crumbled-Into-Dust Stick-in-the-Mud Worshippers who can't ever be happy over a sinner who repents without first having memorized the Larger Catechism. But while there are undoubtedly some people who ought to be buried in the British Museum and kept from making any observations on the state of society or the church, it is just as uncharitable to assume that everyone is like that as it is to assume that Piper or whomever are trying to corrupt the church for the money.
I don't mean to be harsh, but caricatures work more than one way, and if anything you were a little harder on Dr. Trueman than he was on the YRR.
Great. Somebody starts a Cult of the Powdered Wig and I'm not even pegged for membership...
I have since read a few more articles by Dr. Trueman and this Grumpy Scholar thing he does seems to be his niche.
I found myself cheering his crankiness when I agreed with him, and gritting my teeth at his opinions when they differed from mine. He does make some significant judgment calls on the YRR folks, so judgment calls back at'em are not totally inappropriate.
Trueman speaks of the YRR folks as having more popularity than they do talent. That is pretty judgmental, especially when Piper and Mohler and MacArthur are usually included in the YRR. I wonder who has more popularity AND talent, Trueman or some of the men that he caricaturizes?
About TR people: I never used the term TR in this post. Is Trueman TR?
Marrow Man: Mail me a powdered wig and I will do all my PB posting donning the wig. I'll even wear it while out shopping one day.