Walk the Talk

The reality that a great deal of professing Calvinists are graceless to those around them – which is one that I am not alone in noticing – bears witness that a Calvinism that is inch deep is no better than no Calvinism at all.JD Hall

If you are primarily acquainted with Calvinism through the internet, this probably surprised you not at all, but I am increasingly running into this attitude in other fora as well. This article is a compelling and charitable evaluation of the lack of grace you see in many who have come into the fold of Reformed belief lately. My reading is that much of the influx of young folks into the Reformed sphere is driven by the perception that Reformed belief and soteriology is “hard,” in precisely the same sense that dudebros chest bumping and flexing after going to the gym think that they’re “hard.” If you have come to the Reformed faith based on ego or pride, great! God uses all manner of means to bring people to the truth. Regardless, you haven’t really joined us until you understand that the Calvinist understanding of sovereignty and the depravity of man blow catastrophic holes in that same ego and pride. If, in the face of vile and heinous sin, you cannot say “But for the grace of God, there go I,” you haven’t gotten it.

No Middle Ground

I must admit, never before have I seen a major figure of this kind of stature make this kind of argument right out loud. He’s calling for the Church of England to be agnostic on the question of homosexuality.Al Mohler

I am linking this Briefing primarily for the discussion of the Church of England and their rejection of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy proposed at their synod. Below is the essential argument which Mohler is addressing.

Does the leadership have the stomach to pursue a reform that will create a schism? No. Is a compromise possible? In theory, the Church could drop the ban on gay clergy and the ban on the blessing of gay unions, but retain its opposition to gay marriage. This makes theoretical sense to me, but in practice gay marriage has become symbolic of full equality and reformers wouldn’t settle for less.
Theo Hobson

Hobson’s assertion is that this situation is basically impossible to resolve, so the church should take a position of intentional agnosticism, or “assertive evasion” on the issue. When asked about the church’s position on sexuality and marriage, ministers should simply say “We don’t know.” Mohler doesn’t seem to believe this is a tenable position, but I actually have to disagree with the good doctor here. I absolutely think that the solution is a wicked solution, but I actually think this is remarkably prescient of how these types of situations are likely to resolve in the near future for denominational situations which have tent posts wide enough that they claim to encompass both liberal and conservative elements of society. Since the opinions taken on the issue cannot possibly be resolved without schism, they simply will not be, in a very intentional manner.

The tragedy of this results is that such agnosticism will require, necessarily, a muting of the church’s voice and an undermining of its foundation. It will not be able to speak on the issue at hand, since it has nothing to say on the matter. Even the toleration of the opposing viewpoint implies to listeners that conservatives in such a situation must not really respect the Bible, and that liberals must not really be concerned with the civil rights of all (to put things in the appropriately partisan language). Mohler seems to believe that such superficiality cannot stand, but I believe that it may very well stand for quite some time. However, it will only stand as a mockery and farce of the true church. I wish I had Mohler optimism that it will fall quickly, but I fear we shall have to tolerate the charade for quite a while.

Do we have to politicize everything?

The worship that the principalities and powers seek to exact from mankind is a kind of feverish excitement. The first business of the church is to refuse them that worship. There are many times . . . when the most pointed political criticism imaginable is to talk about something else. Oliver O’Donovan

Yes, all decisions are basically moral. Yes, we should think about the social ramifications of our support. No, politics is not your religion, nor are your consumer habits. If we acknowledge what is primary and what is secondary, it will help us to navigate life in a way which refuses to capitulate to the relentless colonization of every corner of our habits with political freight.

Religion is a fine word!

And yet, Christianity is a religion in this sense; we do believe in commandments, doctrines, institutions, and church leaders. I fear we can give people the wrong impression, and affirm the unbiblical instincts, when we quickly join them in dismissing religion.Kevin DeYoung

This! Religion is nigh to a curse word in many Evangelical circles, and this should not be so. Consider what you denigrate in people’s minds and associations when you whip out the crusty, trite, and misleading “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” You denigrate the commands or scripture; you denigrate the establishment of the church; you denigrate the creeds and confessions which state biblical truth accurately. Find another word to be your punching bag if you want to denounce pharisaism.

Recognizing legalism

But legalism always carries with it certain symptoms. It’s like a disease. It may not be easily detectable, but if you know what to look for, you can usually spot it and root it out.

One of those primary symptoms? Becoming irritable and frustrated at God’s grace poured out to others.Steven Altrogge

This bounces back somewhat to the first article mentioned, but this seems to me to be a stunningly accurate check on the self. While I am as annoyed as the next guy at the abuse of the word “legalism” to refer to anything even tangentially related to a respect for the law of God, this is helpful in sussing out the effects of legalism in our hearts, even if it is not explicitly present in our doctrine.

Jason Waeber

Jason Waeber is an elder at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, where he worships with his wife and three children. He is also a seminary student, under care with the Great Lakes Presbytery. As GBPC is looking forward to planting a church with him in the next few years, he felt called to develop the online presence of the denomination, both for outreach and the doctrinal maturity of the denomination. The Manna and the Stone is his attempt to pursue this. Currently, Jason is serving as the general editor for the site.

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