Something is starting to boil. It has been simmering for a while, kind of quietly on the back burner, but it seems the critiques have really escalated in the past few weeks and been brought to the forefront ever since Time Magazine published their 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now in which the “New Calvinism” was named Idea # 3. The article mentions Mark Driscoll as one of the key players, in addition to John Piper and Albert Mohler who have done a significant amount of work in bringing a resurgence of Reformed theology and thinking to the church, particularly to my generation. But, what has also fueled the debate that has now been brought to the fore in the Reformed world is that Driscoll has been in several TV interviews and debates (and even hosted one at Mars Hill Church in Seattle recently) on various major TV shows (particularly on ABC), in which it is implied he is the face of this New Calvinism in the media (at least that’s what I’ve gathered). In addition, Matt Chandler was a featured speaker at the 2009 Desiring God Pastors Conference which has really brought the Acts 29 Network into focus within many Reformed camps.
Putting all of this together, it seems the classically Reformed (Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.) have now officially and formally come out swinging against these “new” ideas of ecclesiology (i.e. the theology of how we do church and ministry), ideas they are convinced will ultimately harm the church and the Gospel rather than progress it. Leading the way are Phil Johnson and John MacArthur who have, it seems, almost overstated their case at times, while still making some valid points of concern that those of a missional ecclesiological orientation need to be careful about. They have even begun linking it to the famous Down Grade Controversy in England during the time of Spurgeon. But there are a growing number of voices in opposition now besides these. The whole Acts29 networks’ brand of missional’ism’ seems to now be in question by many of the classically Reformed crowds. It has been labeled “Emergent Calvinism” by some and “unbiblical” by others, and sadly on many blogs, it has been vehemently attacked as straight up theologically liberal in nature (which is just flat out silly in my mind).
Where do I stand? I see arguments on both sides that are very compelling, though I’ve only begun to investigate all of this. I lean toward the Acts 29 network missional emphasis and have been rather sympathetic to the model they use for reaching the West with the Gospel. But I also greatly respect many of those voices in opposition, though again feel many are overstating their arguments at times. I’m still thinking through all of this and reading a book recommended by the Acts 29 Network (from what I was told) entitled The Celtic Way of Evangelism where some ideas for the missional approach are coming from. But I’m also listening to and reading some of these critiques of the whole concept that I’ve found and trying to take a step back with an unbiased view (inasmuch as a person can do that) and figure some of this out. Regardless, if there isn’t some form of compromise/agreement soon, there could be emotionally heated splits in the near future within many Reformed camps because we can’t figure out how to work together, which is exactly what Satan wants to do to ravage any progress that has been made in the area of Reformed theology, thought and life, progressing the Gospel further and thus advancing God’s kingdom. That would be tragic. On a similar note, read this post I wrote from a while back that may speak to some of this: Confusing the Effects of the Gospel with the Gospel.
“Classical” critiques of the Driscoll/Acts 29 missional emphasis; some decent, some overstating their cases:
- Twin Lakes Fellowship Conference Audio: http://tlf2009.blogspot.com/2009/04/audios-for-2009-fellowship.html
- MacArthur and Johnson on the whole thing: http://defendingcontending.com/2009/04/17/john-macarthur-on-mark-driscoll-part-2/
- Recent post by Johnson: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2009/04/preview.html
- 9 Marks Ministry critique: http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID598014|CIID2265778,00.html
I haven’t seen really any articles or good posts in which Acts 29 members respond to these critiques (though I’m sure they are out there, please send), but I’ll post them if I come across some. It seems Driscoll has made a point of not saying anything at this juncture and focusing in other areas. So we’ll have to see what is said in response.