With this year being the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation (though there were quite a number of precursors leading up to that point), there are a number of great resources that are celebrating what God has done in history in recovering the gospel, while expressing the urgent need for ongoing reformation in our present day in the church (universally).
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“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7 ESV)
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)
One of the problems when dealing with defining who the proper recipients are in baptism is the very definition of baptism itself. The standard “on the street” definition in Baptist circles, which is the predominant view in evangelical churches, is “the outward sign of an inward reality.” And this makes great sense to people who aren’t familiar with the Reformed perspective on baptism (which is drastically different from the Roman Catholic Church in which the Reformed view denies baptismal regeneration).
This is a great series of posts from R. Scott Clark on communion, how it has been desecrated through historical innovations, but then on the other side of the spectrum memorialized and in many cases completely trivialized in the larger, popular evangelical world. He then offers what is the historic Reformed view, a recovery of this means of grace.
As a teenager growing up in east Fort Worth, in the summer of 1995, I can remember it well. Stuck in the doldrums of my own sin, like a washing machine on spin cycle, I was miserable. With a number of dark industrial bands blaring in the background of my room, in anger I tried to ignore and suppress the Lord calling me, until one day this guy showed up to my house, in my room, and brought a presence with him that I couldn’t explain. We chatted some, then he looked at my CD collection and said very directly, “You need to get rid of all these and throw them away.” Now normally, anyone else could have told me this and I would have cynically blown it off as some religiousy call to “clean my act up.” Not that day.
This is a series of posts done by Kim Riddlebarger, posted on Westminster Theological Seminary’s blog, entitled Basics of the Reformed Faith. He goes through some of the core tenets of what Reformation teaching consists of. This can be very helpful if you are new to, just exploring or want to be reminder of the great truths of Scripture and let them work like a medicine on your soul. I would imagine there are going to be more of these posts in the near future, so I’ll add them as they come out. Check it out!
- It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; to be Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the Judge of all the world. To the Lord Jesus He gave, from all eternity, a people to be His seed. These, in time, would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus.
- The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being true and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of the same substance and equal with Him;- Who made the world, and Who upholds and governs all things which He has made,- did, when the fullness of time had come, take upon Himself man’s nature, with all its essential properties and common infirmities, with the exception of sin.- He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, so that He was born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Abraham and David, in accordance with the Scriptures.- Thus two whole, perfect and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion;- So that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man, yet He is one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
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.
Nathan Pitchford, blogging over at www.reformationtheology.com, makes some very good observations as to why this phenomenon has occurred. To sum up what Pitchford says, Reformed Theology has surged among us mainly due to five things (though there very well could be other factors as well):
1) Dissatisfaction with the theology and religious environment of our parents.
I believe this factor is one of the largest. Much of this discontentment has to do with a tiredness of the way things have been done in our parents generation. It’s old, worn out, and about 3 inches of spiritual depth. At the root of that is a discontentment with their particular brand of a Christian worldview, their presuppositions, theology, and philosophy of ministry, all of which seems to be more temporally focused rather than eternally focused on the Kingdom. We’re tired of the idolatry, materialism and consumerism that have invaded the church. It needs to stop. The Protestant Church needs a temple cleansing, so to speak. The Church is not the market place nor should it act like it. And that’s what we are reacting against is this blatant idolatry that has moved from worshiping Christ as the supreme King to idolizing self and using Christ to that end. Now of course, it is not a blanket statement to say all within my parents generation are involved in this, because, as noted below, John Piper has been one of the largest influences on this surge. There are many others as well who have made a difference and opposed this idolatry, calling for us to reclaim the faith once for all delivered.
2) Desire for a rootedness and connectedness with the historic faith.
In the latter part of the 20th century, most within the Protestant church were simply looking to the past 100-200 years (or only their present day pastors and teachers) for information concerning the exposition of Scripture. And yet there is a deep, rich, long history of men of the faith who have contributed greatly to the Church’s literature. Our parents generation, in general, seemed to ignore these voices. No more. We want to reclaim those voices. As Pitchford says, we indeed want to be reconnected with those who have gone before us and brought so much rich theology and thinking to the church. Looking to those in church history for their input concerning the Scriptures can really help us see our own blind spots within our culture. As Greg Love, a great friend of mine has said before, you can always go and stare at a wonderful work of art for hours and glean a lot of great perspective. In fact you must be doing that. But to hear an expert on that piece of art go into detail about things you had no idea were there, you can find some things you may never have seen by just observing it yourself. So it is with Church History.
3) The resurgence of Puritan literature.
There are some works out now that you simply could not have gotten a hold of just 20 years ago. This helps greatly for the cause. The publisher Banner of Truth Trust is one of the forerunners and largest distributors of Puritan works, though there are others that have contributed greatly as well.
4) John Piper.
This man is one of the single biggest influences on the shaping of my own personal theology. The first sermon I ever heard from him was this: http://www.desiringgod.org/download.php … 961027.mp3. It shocked me how much of eternal perspective he had. I soaked it up and continue to do so to this day. To me, John Piper is a modern day Jonathan Edwards/John Owen. He takes their theology and makes it accessible. He has been an incredibly vital influence to the surge.
5) The internet (and www.monergism.com in particular).
I can’t tell you how big of help websites like www.monergism.com and www.spurgeon.org, as well as other sites, have been to influencing my own personal theology. God has richly blessed us with these resources. Take advantage of them.
Fundamentalism and its Similarities with Reformed Theology
1: The inspiration and verbal inerrancy of Scripture
2: The Deity of Christ and the virgin Birth
3: The substitutionary atonement
4: Justification by faith
5: The physical resurrection
6: The bodily return of Christ at the end of the age.
7: Christ performed miracles
Fundamentalism and its Differences with Reformed Theology
1: The absence of historical perspective;
2: Ignores the Scriptures highly diverse literary genres
3: The lack of appreciation of scholarship; aversion toward any secondary theological training; anti-intellectual & often legalistic
4: The substitution of brief, skeletal, superficial creeds for the historic confessions.
5: The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine; highly averse to theology
6: Pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., major upon “issues” such as protesting
Harry Potter movies; separating with Christians who are not KJV only);
7: One-sided other-worldliness – reclusive: church separate from the culture-the holy huddle (i.e., a lack of effort to impact their communities & transform culture); and a penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: dispensational pre-millennialism).
8: Arminian tendency in theology (synergistic)
UPDATE 4.19.2012: Oddly enough, I’ve also noticed some of these tendencies within hyper-calvinist strains of fundamentalism. As opposed to being averse to theology, they take it up with gusto and are very concerned with precision. I guess you could call it the other end of the spectrum of fundamentalism.