Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can Divinity Be Mastered?

"The minister," writes D.G. Hart,
"... does not hold authority because of special gifts... nor does the minister speak with power because he is telegenic and winsome. Rather, authority resides in the ministry because of the office of the pastor itself. The office, no matter who holds it, is authoratative." (Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in the Reformed Tradition, 113.)
Crucial to a confessionalist view of the Christian faith (over against a pietist one) is the importance of the ordained ministry of Word and sacrament. The blatantly anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic nature of the confessionalist position makes it seem utterly foreign and even backward when compared to all the stuff that makes America tick (a dissimilarity that, when coupled with a healthy sense of the separation between church and state, shouldn't be a problem).

In our day, however, the idea that anyone's opinions about what God thinks about a particular issue are more trustworthy than another's is ludicrous, especially "when every Tom, Dick, and Sadie with a strong D average in high school has the right to express an opinion" (Ibid., quoting John M. Timmerman). But when we're grappling with something that's really important like, say, cancer, then all of a sudden the expert's opinion actually matters.

Is the fact that the instruction of M.D.s in white coats carries more weight than that of M.Div.s in black gowns a possible indication of where our priorities lie?

Or to put in more simply: Are our souls so much less important than our bodies that the spiritual health of the former can be diagnosed by anybody with a Bible, while the physical health of the latter requires some actual expertise?

And just what does "Master of Divinity" mean anyway?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different....

Having looked somewhat in depth at the "this-worldly" devotion that often characterizes pietism (whether in its liberal or evangelical formulations), I would now like to consider those things which characterize what D.G. Hart considers the proper alternative to pietism: confessionalism.

One of the most immediately obvious differences centers around the question of authority. Now I know what you’re thinking: "Don’t all Protestants hold to the Bible as their sole authority in all matters related to faith and practice?"

That’s a good question, but I’m not sure it’s the right one. In other words, framing the issue of authority in terms of Bible versus Tradition commits the same error as does dividing Protestants into either evangelical or liberal camps. It captures a lot, but misses a lot more.

The question has never been over whether the Bible or tradition holds ultimate sway for Protestants, for we have always given the final word to the former. The real question, then, is the follow-up: "This Bible that is our ultimate authority, are we to read it in conjunction with, or in isolation from, the rest of the believing community down through he ages?"

Well, which is it? Are we to open the Good Book with a blank slate and receive its truths fresh from the Author’s lips, or are these truths in some way mediated through confessional documents and/or the lips of the ministers of the Word?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

One Market, Under God – Part Four: Christian CEOs, Rise Up!

The final section in Dick Doster’s article “The Kingdom Work of the Corporate World” (byFaith Magazine, October 2006) is called “Transforming Business for the Kingdom.” In it Doster highlights various Christian artists—such as Suzy Shultz, Bret Lott, Bach, and U2—who have created some of the world’s best art, and then asks, “Where are their business counterparts—the entrepreneurs and corporate executives who, with the same passion, reshape the world through business?” He continues:

“God’s people can, as agents of his redemptive plan, transform business, stripping it of selfish ambition and pursuing instead what’s best for their neighbors. Through business, God’s people can harness mankind’s creative activity, and with it nurture his creation, developing products that make life better.”
I’ll list the unspoken and unproven assumptions for you, just in case you missed them all: 1. Business is supposed to be “transformed”; 2. The transformation of business is something Christians are responsible to do “as agents of God’s redemptive plan”; 3. Business and “selfish ambition” are things that the corporate executive can and should separate; 4. What is “best” for our neighbors is business (and everything that goes with it); 5. The products that business creates “make life better.”

Doster then ends his article with the incredible statement that many regretful Christians, on their deathbeds, may (rightly) gasp: “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

I will exercise Herculean self-restraint here and merely point out that such confusion of kingdoms is alarming to say the least. When God’s redemptive plan is equated with what The Gap does, or conversely, when the latter’s vision statement begins to resemble the church’s Great Commission, then what we are left with is a Social Gospel that may be relevant, but only at the expense of its holiness.

In short, when Christ's kingdom is trivialized and the culture sacralized, what we are left with is earth instead of heaven....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Some Relevant Humor to Lighten the Mood....

Report: Everything Made In Sweatshops

NEW YORK—A new U.S. Department Of Labor study revealed that Martha Stewart Living housewares, Tommy Hilfiger clothing, iPod music players, forks, diapers, telephones, and every other conceivable consumer good in existence is manufactured by people laboring in sweatshop conditions. "Long hours, low wages, and unsafe work areas are involved in producing everything our civilization uses," Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said at a press conference Tuesday. "It is now literally impossible for anyone anywhere in this country to purchase any single thing that doesn't infringe on someone's human rights." Chao added that even the few items still made in the U.S., such as designer T-shirts and certain Toyota sedans, are also produced in deadly squalor, mostly by illegal immigrants. The Department of Labor recommended no immediate course of action in response to the report, which was compiled by 135 government employees in an 20-by-80-foot Quonset hut without air-conditioning working six 18-hour shifts a week for $1.15 an hour.

From The Onion

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One Market, Under God – Part Three: Blessed are the Poor....

The third portion of Doster’s article in byFaith Magazine (“The Kingdom Work of the Corporate World”) is called “Business is How We Care For the Poor.” Yes, you read that correctly.

Business is, “in an ultimate sense, the only solution to poverty,” Doster writes, since “for-profit work in the secular world is how we care for those in need.” As Christians go into business, the theory goes, new wealth will be created which will create new jobs, thereby fulfilling the cultural mandate and loving our neighbors.

But as I pointed out in my last post, a corporation has only one mandate, and that is to make money for its shareholders. If people are benefited in the process, that is merely a by-product that will exist only as long as the company’s bottom line increases. So if your favorite clothing company can have its products manufactured in a Chinese sweatshop by eight-year-olds making 12 cents a day, that is good news for investors. Or if American businessmen can privatize Bolivia’s rainwater and prohibit the indigenous population from collecting it in buckets to wash themselves for free, a victory is claimed for the free market.

My point is simple: To insist that the second Table of the law can only be fulfilled in a free-market, capitalist society, and that the wealthier a CEO becomes the better off the rest of us will be, is about the most white, privileged, American interpretation of “kingdom work” that I have ever heard.

Or are we only to “contextualize” the kingdom message to those who think that "Rush is Right"?

Monday, October 23, 2006

One Market, Under God – Part Two: How Sociopaths Love Their Neighbors

The next section in Dick Doster’s “The Kingdom Work of the Corporate World” (byFaith Magazine, October 2006) is entitled “Business Is How We Love Our Neighbors.” The author writes:

“God has placed most of his people in business because it is there, working with others in a common purpose, that we [‘Love God and neighbor’].”
But as Joel Bakan has powerfully highlighted in his book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Big Business is anything but a Samaritan, let alone a “good” one.

Legally speaking, the corporation is a person entitled to all the rights that other individuals share. As a legal entity, a corporation has as its edict one, and only one, goal: To create profits for its shareholders, without legal or moral obligation to the welfare of workers, the environment, or the well-being of society as a whole. Competition and self-interest dominate, and other aspects of human nature, such as creativity, empathy, and the ability to live in harmony with the earth, are suppressed and even ridiculed (taken from the editorial review on amazon.com).

To put the matter bluntly, if the corporation’s identity were not just legally that of a person, but if it were an actual flesh-and-blood human being, we would lock him up and throw away the key. After all, we have a word for people who relentlessly pursue their own interests with contempt for the suffering or harm it inevitably causes others – they’re called “sociopaths.”

My point is not to demonize those who work in the business world, but simply that the desire to Christianize every aspect of society requires a pretty large list of assumptions about what a Christian society would look like.

And (lo and behold!) it usually looks a lot like a free market democracy with an eagle as its mascot.

One Market, Under God – Part One: Dominion Now

I was planning to consider further the nature of confessional Christianity (which I will eventually do), but I came across an example of what happens when transformationists attempt to “redeem” every square inch of life, and I just can’t pass this one up.

In the latest issue of the PCA’s byFaith magazine there is an article by Dick Doster called “The Kingdom Work of the Corporate World” (!) that illustrates the danger I have been attempting to highlight, i.e., that “bringing Christ’s kingdom to bear” upon various cultural spheres often involves the baptizing of the transformer’s favorite political or socio-economic theories.

The article begins by arguing that God calls his people into the corporate world in order for them to fulfill their mandate to subdue the earth by means of their ingenuity in business:

“Consider the things that make your life richer, more comfortable, more convenient, and more productive. Think about all the things that make you safer, healthier, and wiser. They are all products of business innovation.”

Note the unspoken (and unproven) assumption here: God desires our lives to be rich, comfortable, convenient, productive, safe, healthy, and wise. Really? With the exception of the fourth and seventh, none of those qualities characterized Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or John. Without skipping a beat the author continues:

“There is no more creative force in the world today than business, and God has placed most of his people there, not to pursue money or power, nor to satisfy their selfish ambition—but to create, rule, fill, and subdue the Earth.”

As is often the case with transformationists, and with post-millennialists more broadly, the author has failed to read the cultural mandate of Genesis in the light of the suffering motif that the cross provides for us. Yes, it was Adam’s duty to subdue the earth, and that command was repeated in the common grace Noahic covenant of Genesis 9. But as Hebrews 2 points out (building upon both Gen. 1 and Psa. 8), it is through the “suffering and death” of the second Adam that he, and mankind in him, will eventually be “crowned with [the] glory and honor” that would have been ours in the first Adam had he fulfilled his covenant obligations. For now, though, “we do not see all things in subjection to man, but we see Jesus...” (which really ought to be enough).

So whatever visions of conquest that we may entertain in this age must be understood in the light of the cross. It is in the age to come, and not now, that the dominion mandate will be realized.

And even if it were fulfilled in this age, it most certainly wouldn’t be through Big Business....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A World-and-Life View or a Faith Once Delivered?

"A carefully considered Christian world-and-life view that is consistently acted upon can provide the coherence, the integrity, that is the basis for a meaningful life." So argued Gaylen Byker, President of Calvin College, during his convocation address in September of 2001. According to most Reformed Kuyperians and others of a transformationist stripe, a well developed world-and-life view is essential for Christian living and cultural transformation.

Questions immediately arise, however, regarding the source of this thing we're all supposed to share. "World" and "life" are about the two broadest categories one can think of, so where does one's "view" of these things come from?

It seems that if the answer is, "From the Bible," then a certain view of the Bible is presupposed which is hard to sustain, namely, that it is meant to furnish the believer with enough information about politics, economics, art, and culture to provide us with the correct world-and-life view and thereby secure "the coherence and integrity that is the basis for a meaningful life."

But is the Bible's view of economics Libertarian or Green? Is the Bible's view of politics Red or Blue? Is art supposed to be descriptive or prescriptive, according to Jesus?

And further, if we maintain that the Bible speaks to every area of life, then in the end mustn't we conclude that it really speaks about nothing at all?

Neither the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt) nor the Westminster Confession and Catechisms mention anything about a "world-and-life view," but they do speak of a "Faith, once and for all delivered to the saints." Shouldn't we allow the Bible to speak authoritatively to those things that it is actually intended to address, rather than baptizing our favorite political and economic theories with Scriptural significance?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Countercultural Contextualization?

The dialogue over the last couple days has been both helpful and lengthy (we've had a combined 350 unique visitors and 750 page views since Tuesday morning, but I suppose that's to be expected when Darryl Hart and Tim Keller are joining the conversation)....

But one area that needs to be clarified, I think, is the nature of counterculturalism.

When a ministry such as Redeemer in New York makes a claim to both counterculturalism and contextualization, I must admit that, initially, I have trouble wrapping my mind around such strange bedfellows (kind of like the first time I saw a photo of Kevin Federline). How can a church both contextualize the gospel to the tastes of its surroundings and claim to subvert them at the same time? And what was Britney thinking when she hooked up with K-Fed anyway?

But I think I'm beginning to understand the Redeemer Model: Christians are to be markedly different when they interact with unbelievers at work, for instance, but then in public worship they are to make every effort not to stumble those same visiting unbelievers unnecessarily. So to use Keller's example from the comments below, a Christian CEO won't seek to maximize profits if workers' rights are violated (counterculturalism), and his church won't use the Trinity Hymnal if the unbelievers' tastes are violated (contextualization).

But this seems to be doing things in precisely the opposite way than the Scriptures tell us to.

It is not in the cultural kingdom that Christians are to be countercultural, but in the cultic kingdom. When we are engaged in common grace, kingdom-of-man activity we are to go about our business quietly, honestly, and with all diligence. We pay our taxes, we respect our fellow man, and we obey the powers that be (I Pet. 2:12-17; Rom. 13:1-7; I Tim. 2:1-2).

But on the contrary, when we are summoned into the heavenly Jerusalem each Lord's Day we give expression to the subversive, otherworldly, and countercultural characteristics that define us as a community (and if you ask me, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our murdered Leader is a tad more revolutionary than caring about workers' rights... just ask any member of the Green Party).

So contextualization and counterculturalism can coexist. But believers should practice the former in the secular realm and the latter in the sacred....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gnosticism, Confessionalism, and Jewish Folly

The charge of "Gnosticism" usually follows about twelve seconds after advocates of the Two Kingdoms framework insist that cult and culture must be kept distinct. As one sixteenth-century Gnostic explained:
"Whoever knows how to distinguish between... this present fleeting life and that future eternal life will, without difficulty, know that Christ's spiritual Kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct.... It is a Jewish folly [both] to seek and to enclose Christ's Kingdom within the elements of this world...."

But the charge that confessionalism (the antidote to this-worldly pietism and the liberalism and evangelicalism it spawns) is "Gnostic" is an example of guilt by association, since holding to a dualistic position does not a Gnostic make. Gnosticism, properly understood, refers to a dualism between matter and spirit, the material and the immaterial. So all one must affirm to avoid the charge is that the new heavens and new earth will not be immaterial but physical. (Confessing belief in the bodily resurrection also does the trick.)

So ontological dualism (matter vs. spirit) is not the same as eschatological dualism (this present age vs. the age to come). The former is indeed Gnostic, while the latter is patently Pauline.

And as the "Gnostic" I quoted above correctly observed, the attempt to subsume "every square inch" of life under the umbrella of Christ's spiritual kingdom smacks more of the Old Testament Jewish theocracy than of the pilgrim ethic that characterizes the patriarchs, the Babylonian exiles, and us today.

(But what would he know? He was too busy reforming the worship of Geneva to grasp the subtle difference between postmilennialism and amilennialism.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Holy Urbanism Old and New

A phrase caught my eye in D.G. Hart's recently-published A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, in which he writes:
"The redemptive urbanism of the Puritan founders and their American Protestant descendants... repeated the errors of Christendom... [for] the American invocation of the city-on-a-hill metaphor has been at considerable odds with the old urbanism of the Bishop of Hippo [as defended in Augustine's City of God]...." (p. 38, emphasis added).
I couldn't help but wondering if Hart was consciously drawing a connection between the "redemptive urbanism" of John Winthrop, minister and first governor of the Massachussetts Bay Colony and Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. After all, both men share a similar interpretation of the importance of "the City," one which invests a greater redemptive significance in this institution than Hart is comfortable with.

I'll ask the forgiveness in advance of those who cry "foul!" whenever I label transformationists as postmillennial, but I just can't help myself: When both the Puritan founders like Winthrop and advocates of the redemption of culture like Keller were/are equally committed to the transformation of the kingdom of this age into the spiritual kingdom of Christ, how is the former postmillennial and latter optimistically amillennial?

(And Dr. Hart, please feel welcome to flesh out this connection if you choose.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Transformers and Decepticons

(Forgive the Eighties reference; unless you were or had a kid during that decade, you'll just scratch your head at the title of this post, so if you don't get it, just forget it and move on....)

All the language concerning the "transformation of culture" that we hear in ecclesiastical circles today gives rise to the question, "Just where did this idea come from?" According to Hart, it is part and parcel of pietist Christianity. He writes:
"Throughout the twentieth century, evangelical and mainline Protestants have assumed, thanks to their pietist heritage, that religion has immediate relevance to all walks of life.... [T]he legacy of pietism is a this-wordly form of devotion that... manifests 'the passion to hammer down history, to touch the transcendental, to earth the supernatural in the mundane.'" (Hart, Lost Soul, xxx).
The intended result of pietism, whether liberal or evangelical, is results. When the poor are fed, abortion is criminalized, and X amount of souls are converted, then the gospel has done its (tangible and utilitarian) work.

Biblially speaking, where does this idea that the ministry of the gospel must produce a visibly better society come from? And if this is not the point, then what is?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Hath Wheaton To Do With Grand Rapids?

In a passage that is sure to raise some eyebrows (which those who know him will agree he revels in doing), Hart further defends the essential difference between pietism and confessionalism by writing:
"The institutional church set confessional piety apart from revivalism's rugged spiritual individualism and low regard for clergy, liturgical rites, and creeds.... In fact, on a spectrum of Christianity that placed creeds, clergy, and rites at one end, and religious experience and personal morality at the opposite end, Protestant confessionalists would be located closer to Roman Catholics than to revivalist Protestantism." (D.G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, 50, emphasis added).
At issue here is the nature of the tie that binds (or divides, as the case may be). Is ecclesiastical similarity more important than doctrinal difference? Or does doctrinal agreement transcend ecclesiastical distinctiveness? And if we affirm the latter, we must then answer the question: How much agreement do Reformed believers have with evangelicals, really? Sure, we affirm some basic essentials, but are there not striking differences with respect to soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and various other loci?

Moreover, Calvin's own defense of the Reformation listed worship above justification as the primary example of the need to reform the Church, thereby seemingly giving ecclesiology the upper hand over soteriology (the latter being an outgrowth of the former).

So what say you? Is any paradigm that places Grand Rapids closer to Rome than to Wheaton de facto illegitimate? And if solidarity over "the essentials" trumps churchly concerns, does that not assume that doctrine is formulated in an ecclesiastical vacuum rather than in the context of the community of believers?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Tale of Two Pieties

In his book lamenting the so-called "new measures" employed by nineteenth-century revivalist Charles Finney (which were characterized by an early version of the "altar call" in which people could come forward to the "anxious bench" after the sermon to receive instruction concerning conversion), John Williamson Nevin wrote:
"The old Presbyterian faith, into which I was born, was based throughout on the idea of covenant family religion, church membership by God's holy act in baptism, and following this a regular catechetical training of the young, with direct reference to their coming to the Lord's table. In one word, all proceeded on the theory of sacramental, educational religion." (Nevin, The Anxious Bench, quoted in D.G. Hart, John Williamson Nevin: High Church Calvinist.)
According to Nevin, there are two systems of religion at work in Protestantism: the "system of the bench," and "the system of the catechism." These two systems "involve at the bottom two different theories of religion. The spirit of the Anxious Bench is at war with the spirit of the Catechism.... They cannot flourish and be in vigorous force together." And in case his readers misunderstood his message, Nevin then added, "The Bench is against the Catechism, and the Catechism is against the Bench."

It is hard to believe that there was a time when religion in this country was characterized by the ordinary ministry of the local church, with her worship, liturgy, preaching, and sacraments (and admittedly, this period didn't last long).

What we need to recover today is just such a view of the local church's role in the life of the believing family. Rather than the slick program-driven and desperate attempts at "relevance" (which the world gets to define, by the way), we need a ministry that will simply open the Scriptures and preach Christ crucified from them, and then give the bread and the cup to hungry and thirsty pilgrims.

Anything less than a bold refusal to pander to the whims of the worldly is to sell our birthright, like "that profane man Esau," for a bowl of beans.

But will it work?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Conservative Iconoclasm?

As we've seen, the assumption by both church historians and sociologists of religion is that revivalistic Protestantism (evangelicalism) is a conservative form of Christianity. Yet as Hart points out, this view fails to take into account the fact that the forms such piety takes -- an emphasis on conversion, small group Bible study, evangelistic crusades, and altar calls -- all represent a very novel approach to the Christian faith. In other words, the way most believers today seek to "get religion" is starkly different from the way their forebears did.

The "pietist" and "confessionalist" paradigms for growth in the Christian faith are made into bedfellows, however, by the insistence that whatever is not evangelical is liberal, and whatever is not liberal is evangelical.

Beside the obvious inconsistency behind labeling the religion produced by iconoclastic trailblazers as "conservative" stands the equally obvious question, "If evangelical spirituality consists largely of quiet times and Vineyard-style praise and worship, what does Reformed spirituality look like? And why the insistence that these two brands of piety must be distinct rather than blended?"


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Liberalism and Evangelicalism: Two Sides of the Same Pietist Coin?

As I highlighted below, D.G. Hart's plea for a reconfiguring of the common two-party division of American Protestants (abandoning the liberal/evangelical division in favor of a pietist/confessionalist one) hinges upon his contention that the agreement between pietists and confessionalists on doctrines such as the authority of Scripture is overshadowed by their disagreement over just about everything else.

What is "pietism"? Hart traces its origin in this country to the revivals of the Great Awakening (1735-1742), and writes:
"The sort of religion heralded by the revivals of the First Great Awakening is chiefly responsible for the triumph of a utilitar-ian view of faith. The itinerant evangelists of these revivals, as well as their successors, transformed Christianity from a churchly and routine affair into one that was intense and personal.... American pietism dismissed church creeds, structures, and ceremonies as merely formal or external manifestations of religion that went only skin deep. In contrast, pietists have insisted that genuine faith was one that transformed individuals, starting with their heart and seeping into all walks of life." (D.G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, xxiii).
What makes Hart's argument especially striking is the fact that he places both liberals and evangelicals in the pietist camp. As he and others have pointed out, both parties tend to pit doctrine against practice (hence Rick Warren's call for a "reformation of deeds not creeds"), head against heart, institutional against primitive Christianity, and Paul against Jesus.

What are we to make of all this? Is pietism inconsistent with confessional Christianity? Is there as great a similarity between liberals and evangelicals as Hart argues for? And how ought Reformed believers to conduct themselves toward our evangelical friends across the aisle?

American Protestantism: A New Paradigm

After highlighting the traditional nomenclature with which American Protestantism is usually characterized ("liberal" vs. "evangelical"), D.G. Hart argues that these categories, like King Belshazzar's reign, have been "weighed in the balances and found wanting."

A better way to divide American Protestants, Hart argues, is between "pietists" and "confessionalists" (with both liberals and evangelicals falling into the former category). Hart writes:
"The two-party [liberal/evangelical] interpretation lacks nuance and so lumps together disparate Protestant communions on the basis of a slim set of criteria, such as conversion and social activism. Such a minimalist approach to the various denominations of Protestantism, in turn, ignores such historically important aspects of Christianity as liturgy, creeds, catechesis, preaching, sacraments, ordination, and church government. Ironically, by overlooking these churchly dimensions, the standard approaches to American Protestantism miss what may in fact be a more significant division in Unites States religion -- namely, between believers who distinguish the essence of Christianity from the external practices and observances of it (i.e., pietists) and those who refuse to make such a distinction (i.e., confession-alists)." (D.G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, xxvii, emphasis added).

So according to Hart's schema, the agreement that confessional churches have with evangelicals on issues such as the inspiration of Scripture and the diety of Christ is less significant than the disagreement they have over just about everything else.

How does this paradigm play into our discussion concerning the attitude of Refomed believers toward evangelicals? Toward Lutherans? Toward proponents of the New Perspective on Paul?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Contending Earnestly Without Beating the Air

I know the timing of this may seem odd, especially in the light of the recent series on the Federal Vision, but I've been thinking lately about whether Reformed churches should define themselves negatively, and if so, against whom ought we to define ourselves?

To partially answer my own question, I would prefer we not always present ourselves, our theology, and our worship to others as anti-seeker, anti-Catholic, anti-New Perspective, et cetera, et cetera. Surely there is something deep, rich, and beautiful about Reformed theology and practice that should make it compelling to believers and nonbelievers alike, shouldn't there?

And if there is a battle waging and lines being drawn, it is not the same lines that were drawn in the sixteenth-century. Rome is not the enemy anymore, and in fact, I wonder whether we ought to define ourselves against any church or denomination that has a covenantal and confessional identity.

So now what? Are we doomed to weep because we, like Alexander, have no worlds left to conquer? Unfortunately we are still the church militant, and our theologia viatorum (pilgrim theology) precludes our laying down our weapons just yet.

But if we must "contend earnestly for the faith," it seems wise to expend our energy and efforts in the right direction (and a twelve-part sermon series on how Lutherans are closet-Eutycheans because of their doctrine of ubiquity seems somewhat wide of the mark).

I would argue that if we stop to consider where the loudest voice and greatest influence effecting how God is marketed to the world today is found, it would have to be broad evangelicalism. In fact, the more I interact with folks of this persuasion, the more I wonder to myself whether we even have a common religion anymore.

So here's my question(s): Am I reading the writing on the wall correctly? Ought we to define ourselves negatively as "not your neighbor's evangelical church"? Why or why not? How and how not?