Monday, March 31, 2008

Young, restless, reformed - UK?

Challies reviews Collin Hansen's Young Restless & Reformed. It's something of a biography of this movement of the new Calvinists in America. Think Louie Giglio & Passion, think Piper, think Driscoll. I've not read it, though I'd love a copy. I wonder how it'd go down in the UK. Piper and Driscoll appear to be influencing a good number of the students I encounter though there are plenty of other voices in the crowd too - like the altogether less helpful Eldridge, Bell etc.

There is something compelling and attractive about Driscoll's confidence in the truth and Piper's passion for the glory of God that should rightly resonate with any Christian (whether or not you buy into all seven points of Piper-Calvinism).

In the UK, many in UCCF and Newfrontiers have long been journeying with Piper&co (There are lots of non-Calvinist's in the UCCF family, and I'd guess that Newfrontiers isn't entirely Calvinist either.) and there are plenty of churches in Anglican and Free traditions who would hold to strong reformed theology. Translating that into the 21st Century is the question - what does it look like to be Young, Restless & Reformed in the UK? Or just what does it mean to be Reformation-Christians, whatever your age, state of mind etc.

[edit: I think I want to concede that reformed is a term that needs careful definition, and in the UK it seems that whilst there is tension/disagreement on the Calvin/Arminius issue it doesn't seem to be that much of a cause for division where there is unity more clearly on high view of Scripture and unity about the centrality of the cross. That might mean we talk about more about being evangelical than reformed in the UK... I dunno.]
Ventures like next week's New Word Alive conference offer some possibilities of what it may look like to be together for the gospel in the UK, but these things have to be worked out in local communities not just at conference centres. It's a common commitment to the Cross and the Scriptures that birthed this new conference. Who'd have thought that would bring people together!! Seeing families like UCCF and Keswick with Newfrontiers and Soul Survivor partnering together is greatly encouraging for those of us who have a passion for God's glory, a love of the doctrines of the gospel, and feel the drive of the Spirit to go and re-evangelise this once-churched nation.

If this is going anywhere we need to engage with questions like these from Martin Downes about confessional statements. T4G-2006 in the states took the bold step of composing a confession for those who want to unite around the gospel. New events don't necessitate doing that, new word alive already works on the basis of the UCCF doctrinal basis of fellowship. Confessions and their persistent use help us to stay gospel-centred and avoid the drift that so easily catches us. Far from being opposed to relationships they strengthen them by prioritising the gospel above all else.

16 comments:

  1. You know more than I do, but I was told by a newfrontiers worker that some of their churches are Arminian - this was to illustrate his explanation about being 'relational, not confessional'. I'm still not exactly sure how one can be one without the other in a gospel sense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a conversation we've had here before isn't it! And one that does need to be had. I guess I look at it and say relational is good, but the supreme relationship is to God himself - and I'm going to confess that. I will prioritise that over working partnerships with some people.

    And in practice non-confessional movements do the same... their longevity probably rests upon getting their confessions clear. They must then avoid the error that they're probably reacting too of letting confessions slip into the background and become cold, instead of being vibrant documents that drive what they do.

    I'm sure that the only human reason for UCCF having survived 80 years is that the DB has been kept at the heart of what we do. Without that we'd have been another SCM... Yet 80 faithful years is no guarantee of 80 in the future if we drift.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd like to see both sides of the issue being explored in more depth.

    On one hand I think Martin Downes is onto something with his observation that NFI do use creeds, though less formally, and systematically. And perhaps it would be helpful to formalise and systematise the ideas, as he invites them. Having said that, it does feel a bit like he's waiting to pounce on them, with his website being called 'against heresy' - though thankfully I know that he is a decent, love filled, guy. It might be easy to see things the other way though!

    But then perhaps in their (NFI) situation, at this point in their history, perhaps it would be an unhelpful move. I know some people get nervous about DB's and statements of faith. Perhaps it might polarise some of their members in an unhelpful way. A middle ground, might be to take a historic creed and formally teach from it, then adopt it as a point of unity. That would gradually be developed into a statement of faith, as it was incorporated into their structure - that's a third way for them that might work. Neither jumping straight into a DB situation, but also gradually securing foundations in orthodox Christian belief.

    Since one of the main issues here is the negative effect of a DB. I'd quite like to see this subject explored. What about a 10 ways to misuse a DB Mr Bish? What happens when we over emphasise the importance of a confession? (if we don't think that this is possible, then perhaps that says something very serious to us).

    One of the ways, that I've seen a DB or rule of faith misused, is where believers cling to it out of fear, rather than out of humbly expressing what they have come to believe.

    How do we do less than 'telling the truth, holding to the truth, in LOVE' when we use a DB?

    In the broader picture, I can't avoid the fact that DB's and expressions of faith, are a natural 21st century (and way before) creed. Expressions of our faith in the face of prevailing heresy. Since the creeds were instituted by the apostolic (1st century sense) church, I don't think we have much authority to change them, even if they didn't have such an immensely useful practical role to play.

    So, Mr Bish, 10 ways to misuse a DB. That we can look out for in our own lives. And make it funny.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can you tell me what "very serious" thing it says about me that I really do want to emphasise the importance of a confession? I'm not sure it is possible to over-emphasise its importance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Tom, that was helpful. And yes Dave, I know it's a conversation we've had before around here - it's still in a "vaguely ruminating on it" section of my mind...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm not sure you can overemphasise the importance of a confession, although you can incorrectly assume that the confession does everything and that so long as people are signed up that's okay. That's been a huge problem in Presby circles, for example.

    BTW, I find it interesting, Dave, that you see NWA and the UCCF DB as 'reformed'. Coming from a very reformed background, I'd label both as 'evangelical, but not necessarily reformed'. I think to be confessionally reformed would mean affirming many things that we (i.e. UCCF) would want to call secondary issues...

    ReplyDelete
  8. You don't even want to admit the possibility of overemphasis? Wow! I bet you do really. You're just being provocative for me. Thanks :)

    Let me say that I think that confessions are incredibly valuable, but that they are only a part of something much bigger, certainly a central main plank in the Christian worldview.

    The primary thing here is God and his Kingdom. The kingdom of heaven breaking into a sinful and hurting world. As we come to express that in ideas, then creeds have real tangible value, but it is possible to overemphasise them, their purpose and use, and importance, to such a point that we don't actually talk about the kingdom much, or even know what it is.

    Let's just stop for a second and think about what a creed is. It is a systematic presentation of ideas - first invented to give new Christian believers a foundation in correct doctrine. Then it became useful for defending against divergent teaching and heretical doctrine - crucially in two areas: The divinity of Christ and the nature of the Trinity. As the church grew the creeds grew, their secondary role becoming their primary role.

    Agreeing so far?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dan,

    What do you understand a creed to be? What does it do?

    Is it possible that it is one part (epistemology) of relating to God? Can one part of our personality, humanity be over emphasised in such a way that it our of proportion to the other good things that God has for us?

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm not convinced that people are into these authors specifically because they are reformed - I read Piper because he writes well, with energy and a finger on the pulse. His advice is usually pretty Cross centered, though I have concerns about him being a bit of a shock jockey sometimes. The point is that he's an apologist, using CS Lewis desire argument better than most, I read him because I find that argument so compelling, I don't agree with some of his Calvinism - but put up with it because the rest of it is brill.

    I'm also a bit concerned that the idea that NWA and UCCF should continue to build its multidenominational image and standing, so painting it (even in light brush strokes) as reformed does actually concern me a little. Let's be very tentative here.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Man, you go out of the office for a day....

    I agree that the use of 'reformed' needs care... one of those somewhat nebulous terms, like evangelical.

    I'll add some more thougts soon...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dan, about NWA - I deliberately changed my language in the post about half way through from the reformed of the book to language about the gospel.

    Whilst Hansen appears to define the US reformed movement by people, I'm not sure (without reading it) that that is all that helpful. I love the ministry of Driscoll, Mahaney, Piper but that never has to imply total agreement with all they write/preach etc.

    Tom - I think in Piper's case a lot of his popularity has nothing to do with his Calvinism in a TULIP sense of the word. But more about passion for the gospel, the supremacy of Christ, love of the word and joy. And I might venture, that that is my 'calvinism'... my 'reformed' theology...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think Piper's compelling God-centredness is only ultimately possible because he's a TULIP man, logically speaking that is.

    And I emphasise 'logically speaking' because of course, many people who don't sign up to the TULIP thing are in practice as thoroughly God-centred as Piper, as captivated by a passion for his glory and supremacy in all things.

    I think being reformed/calvinist is about far more than TULIP. Far far more. My limited knowledge about some of those involved in the 'reformed resurgence' in the US are basically reformed in the TULIP sense. When it comes to basic soteriological issues they agree with Reformed theology. There's yet to be a fuller recovery of some of the more 'reformed with a R' stuff out there in the reformed theological stream.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yeh, I suspect the way this goes is that people buy into the outworkings first, and then find they've probably already implicitly picked up TULIP etc... or at least will do in time. Things like TULIP are minimums rather than comprehensive summaries... darn that Arminius for not asking enough questions, though I guess maybe he agreed with plenty of the good stuff.

    What happens when the Young,Restless,Reformed become Middle-Aged,Leaders,Reformed will be interesting...

    Having Piper and Chris Wright take me into God's motives for saving people in Ezekiel shattered man-centeredness for me. The outworkings of that are vast but take time to get to.

    Pete, I'd love to see your exploration of the wider implications of calvinist/reformed worldviews...

    ReplyDelete
  15. One day maybe, when I've discovered them for myself!

    At the moment though I'm acutely aware that if you asked the reformed of the 17th or 18th century (or even now) to define 'reformed' they're more likely to produce something like the WCF or Savoy, or something, than TULIP. That includes stuff on politics, church governance, worship, employment and so on. And it's not monochrome, hence the language often used of the reformed 'stream' of theology.

    Covenant theology (and with it, something we now call biblical theology) seem reformed basics to me, and that's something loads of modern-day reformed types don't get. See for example Macarthur (a unique case of sorts I know) who basically has reformed systematics in relation to soteriology but in terms of biblical and covenant theology is more with the dispensationalists.

    These other things flow from the core convictions about the soveriegnty of God in all things, so they're totally connected to the systematics of TULIP stuff, but far far broader.

    I'd probably want to throw presuppositional apologetics into the mix too.

    Plus it's all evolving still - semper reformanda and all that.

    On Arminius, interestingly I think he agreed with some of TULIP too, certainly T. I think his major problem was I. Many classical arminians are similar methinks.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete