It should be borne in mind that I do not have my finger on the pulse of reformed evangelicalism as I used to. However, with my causal glance I can deduce that things are afoot and they are not exactly the smooth sailing that was expected after all of the problematic young restless and reformed people were tossed overboard. It would appear that there are some privateers on the horizon and the SS Big Eva is battening down the hatches and firing a few warning shots across the bow.
For a while now I have been whinging on about the potential for a new reformed movement in the vein of Young Restless and Reformed (YRR). And the characters involved are not exactly the respectable types that the old guard were hoping to pass the torch to. The generals are trying to rally the troops only to find they are leading tens not tens of thousands. Especially after the rona I really do want to put the question to Russell Moore, “Does the name Custer mean anything to you?”
And rather than try and work with this rising influence, perhaps be winsome in their approach, the TGC types have chosen to chide, and look down their noses in exactly the kind of pompous censorious way that just drives more people into the open arms of Doug Wilson. A lot of this group needs to learn a version of the lesson National Review said the Democratic Party needs to learn: Just because the media agrees with your choices doesn’t mean your voters do.
Much of the work done by organizations that came out of YRR was aimed at and for pastors. Which is good, the idea is fine. Pastors are under enormous and absurd strain to be immediate experts on the current thing. Along comes TGC, or 9Marks and in one article gives the basis and what to think about it. But it created a bubble. Where pastors rather than being scholars of the Bible, and doctors of the soul, became Cliff Notes readers of the blogs. But the trickle down effect of YRR was that a lot of people like me didn’t just read the Institutes in one hand and our Bible in the other and check it off our list. But we took it seriously, we took it literally, we became reformed. While that was happening our pastors and Big Eva became a self sustaining eco system and it does not like to be disturbed.
For a while things were great, but all institutions drift, and inevitably left. And the Reformed among us didn’t move. We were the ones who wanted to celebrate the fall of Roe, only to be told by the eco system we were wrong and cruel to even make the suggestion. We wanted to gather on the Lords day and not be the first generation of Christians, ever, to stay home our of fear of illness. And were told we were wrong and cruel to even make the suggestion. And in just those two instances alone we were later proved to be correct but never heard a word of confession or repentance. TGC and the like is applauded by pastors but not listened to anymore by the flocks and increasingly the pastors are not listened to. Which, I don’t need to tell you, is not a good thing.
History Repeats itself
In the days of YRR one of the debates was over the problem of Christian celebrity. Young guys would say someone like Matt Chandler was their pastor, sure they lived in Michigan, but they saw his conference messages and streamed the Sunday service. This was rightly condemned. Typically the reason was the church nearest them was either old school fundamentalist or shallow seeker sensitive.* At root the local pastors had been rejected for a lack of faithfulness. We are seeing the same thing. I am experiencing the same thing. I love my pastor, but every time he whiffs if for a partly line I loose just that little bit more respect for him. This is the kind of thing that is happening all over. And rather than it being addressed at the root, the response has been to insult or ignore the dissenters at the worst, or to look down with pitying eyes and condescending tones at best.
If this disconnect is not addressed we will be right back in the same problem that gave a good boost to the first YRR. Keep in mind the word Restless was prominent in the name. Those of us in that movement were tired of an old guard who did not listen to us.
Now, I will caveat that there is a line that is not to be crossed. Lloyd-Jones called it the pew controlling the pulpit. Pastors need to have spines, and that is the point. congregations can be wrong. But more specifically to our day, half of many congregations are wrong and rather than teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness, pastors are trying to walk a fine line between the two, and are frankly failing. Nuance comes after the unvarnished truth. When sanding a piece of wood you start with course grit then move to the fine. I am more than happy rebuking the Orange Man idolater, and harshly, but I also expect the idolater of Moloch to receive no quarter as well.** But as I recall there was plenty of talk about the evils of The Donald but only comfort for those who were upset after Roe was justly ended.
I’ll be honest, I understood back in the day when people wanted to just stream Driscoll sermons and not sit under their clueless moral majority pastor. And I understand today why people would want to move to Moscow and not stay under a guy who thinks N.T. Wrong is the forth member of the Trinity.
It’s all Coming to a Head
I began by saying the hatches are being battened down and pot shots are being taken. And while I only consider myself a casual observer at the moment. I am curious to see exactly how big the ship closing in on SS Big Eva actually is. But there is increasing action on the decks.
Aaron Renn has been receiving a good smacking from, “the leadership” over his Three Worlds framework. Wilson has decided that if he is going to be hanged as a horse thief he might as well steal some horses and is attempting to redeem the term Christian Nationalist.*** Samuel James has written trying to tie those of us who decry Big Eva to David French crying wolf over Trump. And recently Brett McCracken took us bloggers to task for using the generic term “pastors” in our critiques of how we survey the situation.****
I will say that if the evangelical elite are good at one thing it is throwing people under the bus. Which is darkly humorous to me over the ruckus they made from Driscoll saying he did the same thing. They have achieved their comfortable niche and they want to enjoy it undisturbed, just adulation and obedience from the loyal. They are no longer young, restless, and they are only technically reformed. And like the pope before them, they are not all to happy at these upstarts crying “semper reformanda.”
I will say this for Russell Moore, weasel though he may be, he at least has been clear. Russ has made a career out of saying leftist things in a conservative voice. And he has not hesitated to call in to question the salvation of those who disagree with him. As Aaron Renn has recently pointed out he talks like an old school fundamentalist, all fire and damnation, particularly if you voted for Trump, or didn’t get vaccinated, or were Southern Baptist. For these reasons I do not like him. But if I were honest I would sooner have him and his honesty over the cowering but somehow prideful bunch who chides me for being a little too extreme in my orthopraxy.
I think we are prime for a new reformed movement here in America, our betters see it coming and hope to make quick work of us. Don’t give em the chance, batten down the hatches, hoist the Luther’s Rose, damn the cannons and full speed ahead.
*ironically a good bit of Chandler’s success was in his tweaking of seeker sensitive methods while critiquing the old ones. As evidenced by the fact that most of these young guys were really distracted by the quality of the production value that their local church just could not match.
**Sorry, baby murderer, abortion supporter.
***Jonathan Leman from 9 Marks response was good though, while managing to never speak the identity of Wilson Who Must Not be Named In Polite Circles.
****I started this article intending to focus on McCracken’s piece entirely, but while there were a few good small points, such as raise your objections directly to your own pastor, which I have done and agree with; most of it could be summed up in the words of your Italian cousin Ira, “Who you gonna believe here, me? Or your own lyin eyes?” As I have written before many decent sized church, pastors sound similar, because they are similar. They run in the same circles, they read the same books and blogs, and the leftists in their churches are much more trendy and hospitable than the conservatives. It is fair to use the generic, when I begin to see a difference in trends, you will see a difference in my terminology.