Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tulips on Mars, Predestination in Bethlehem

Having argued, first of all, that there is a wide chasm between evangelicalism and Reformed theology with respect to how the faith is attained, cultivated, and passed on, and secondly, that "Reformed" is more than just a state of mind (i.e., it has historical, theological, and confessional content beyond TULIP), another pesky question remains to be considered.

What are we to make of well-known Calvinistic pastors like John Piper or Mark Driscoll?

These men’s ministries aren’t as easily categorized as those of Chuck Smith or Rick Warren, particularly since they exhibit some strongly predestinarian teaching (Piper especially).

Or are they?

There are a couple ways we can approach this question. We could begin with the view that the soteriological issue is the defining one, which would place these men and their churches more in line with those of R.C. Sproul or Tim Keller. Or, we could insist that the ecclesiastical question is even more fundamental, resulting in the conclusion that Bethlehem Baptist and Mars Hill are indeed different species of the same genus (one that includes Calvary Chapel and Saddleback).

For my own part, the "least common denominator" approach to Reformed theology is not only reductionistic, but it ignores the fact that ministers in Reformed denominations have taken vows to uphold much more than just predestination or the Geneva reformer’s well-known acrostic.

In fact, if American Protestantism is better understood in terms of pietism vs. confessionalism rather than evangelicalism vs. liberalism, then perhaps the tulip isn't the flower according to which a garden stands or falls after all.