Why Neo-Reformed Theology Won’t Jive With Mission: I Plead My Case

I’m hanging out at the ecclesia network’s church planter training week. Last night, we all enjoyed some fellowship at a local establishment – and a fight broke out – ok not really. But a real good discussion happened as I tried to explain to a few “Presbyterian” friends why I think Neo-Reformed theology can’t lead us into mission amidst the post Christendom cultures of the West. After we all professed our love and esteem for Tim Keller (and I’m serious here), I argued that Reformed theology, extracted out of Medeival Europe and transplanted to the frontiers of N America, (almost automatically) becomes individualistic. Without the monolith of European Roman Catholicism to reform, the Reformation’s principles – the so-called sola’s – cannot provide a foundation for the Christian life. As hard as “they” might try, such a people formed around the “sola’s” will eventually devolve (once separated from its European culture) into an internalized, transactional individual faith. OK, that’s my case. But let me try to expand with questions

The Reformation Reformed a Church that Was Already There

The Reformation’s claims for a.) Sola Scripture (Scripture alone), b.) Sola Fide (it is by faith we are saved – by no other means), c.) Sola Christus (in Christ alone, we need no other mediator including THE CHURCH!!) were assertions made over against a corrupt church. They provided a corrective to something that was already there. In relation to a.) the church’s interpretive authority needed the call to submit to Scripture. In relation to b.) the church’s excessive penitential demands upon its people (which had made salvation about works) needed the call to recognize salvation was a work of God in Christ by trust in Him, not the church. And in relation to c.) the church itself had become a corrupt controller of al things having to do with salvation including the Eucharist and absolution. The church needed to be chastened from being the controller of God’s blessings in Christ to being the servant thereof. So in simplest terms, the Reformation reinserted the authority of Scripture over (and in) the church, the role of faith in one’s participation in God’s salvation in Christ, and that the church is God’s servant not controller.

But, within medieval Europe, these “Sola’s” did not wipe away a.) the church’s interpretative role in understanding Scripture, b.) the importance of the sacraments and disciplines (the eucharist, confession, serving the poor, etc.) to lead the individual into holiness, or c.) the church as a social reality by which the witness of Christ is carried on into the world. These “sola’s were meant to reform these practices not wipe them away.

Without Something to Reform, Reformed Theology Devolves into Individualist Christianity

Many years later however, transplanted into the United States, Reformed theology has nothing to reform. The “sola’s” are left standing alone as the foundation for a Christian life together.  This worked for many years as long as the cultural consensus came along with the Reformed communities from Europe. But once the Reformed culture began to lose its hegemony within a given context (whether it be the Dutch in Grand Rapids, Swiss or Scottish Presbyterian cultures of the north etc.), the church’s life will devolve into individualism. We get a.) individualist interpretation of Scripture where I – “the individual” becomes the authority for what Scripture means, b.) decisionism – where salvation becomes an individualist transaction all about me where by faith I get pardon for sin and eternal life, and c.) the church becomes the invisible church, a collection of individuals to whom the church must now appeal to.

To me this is what happened as Reformed theology devolved into its current Souther Baptist formulations so prevalent in certain parts of the so-called Neo-Reformed New Calvinist movements. Do you agree? Do you see this in the current manifestations of Neo-Reformed New Calvinism?

What This Means for Mission

This is important for me because I contend such an individualism works against the church taking up a communal, incarnational particpation in God’s Mission in the world. In relation to a.) such individualism too often makes the church an ideologizing entity which uses Scripture as prooftexts to rally people around one position over against another. We turn into a defensive and/or antagonistic people. We do this because we no longer see the church’s role in guiding interpretation. As a result we lose our ability to come together as a people in submission to one another to discern interpretation of texts for new issues we face in the culture. In relation to b.) salvation becomes an individual transaction for me instead of something God is doing in the world to make all things right in which I participate through conversion. We make Jesus private. We lose Mission. And in relation to c.) church becomes eventually something that we must offer as appealing to individuals. We set ourselves up for attractional and/or consumer church. We lose the ability to be shaped by church into a way of life in God’s Mission in the world.  In short then, I contend that Reformed theology has much to offer and learn from. But it is eventually ill suited to shape a people in Mission within Christendom. It remains ecclesiologically functional within Christendom type cultures (like Dallas Texas, Nashville Tenn and Grand Rapids MI). This is why I’m an Anabaptist with Catholic appreciations.

BUT THIS ISN’T REFORMED THEOLOGY!

OK, so I’m asking: is this a fair analysis of Reformed theology hitting the shores of N America? I’m obviously not the first one to argue in this way. Reinhard Hutter made a similar case in Suffering Divine Things. Stanley Hauerwas recently quoted Bonhoeffer (here) saying that “American Protestantism is Protestantism without the Reformation.” Bonheoffer alludes to the conditions I’m discussing here.  But there are many, like Richard Mouw and Jamie Smith who would contend that I have described something that is not Reformed theology. Indeed they argue that the Neo-Reformed theologies are not Reformed at all, they are something else – usually described as Neo Puritan Pietism or something like that. I contend, that yes, the Neo-Puritan Neo-Reformed theologies of folk like Piper, Mohler and Driscoll might not be classically Reformed theology. But still, this is what happens when we separate Reformed theology from its reforming task within Christendom. Are we not seeing many of these individualist tendencies within the Neo-Reformed movement for these reasons?

OK, I have plead my case. I’m expecting and welcoming push back. Shoot, I’m willing to convert. I just need to know where I’m wrong. What say you?

Posted in Ecclesiology, Neo-Anabaptist, Neo-Reformed
75 comments on “Why Neo-Reformed Theology Won’t Jive With Mission: I Plead My Case
  1. Greg Arthur says:

    I think there is some serious merit to your observations about the limitations of the sola’s. So long as the reformed theology you are talking about is defined by these I think there are conflicting theologies of individualism and mission.

    The case will certainly be made, however, that this is not a fair representation of all reformed theology. Or that the neo-reformed theology you describe is distinctive enough to merit being considered apart from classical Reformed theology.

    What happens when we take this theology outside of not just certain geographically friendly regions of North America, but to other areas of the world? I am not well versed in the larger world picture of Reformed missions work. Is there evidence of this theology proving missionally effective outside of North America all together?

    • schoff says:

      It is fairly difficult to find reformed theology walking the dusty roads of Latin America and Southern Africa in my experiences, what you tend to find are the anti-thesis of reformed theology.

      It does beg the question as to why North America was fertile ground for reformed theology V3.0. One might dust off Max Weber and think about it as a socio/economic issue, maybe they constructed a specific kind of capitalistic tradition, partnered and supported the State, had lots of babies, bought the best most travelled corners in the towns and built really gorgeous buildings.

      I was at a party with the former President of Westminster and as I remembered he conversation he was surprised that all the presbyteries in the world were smaller than the number of Anglicans in one African country. I told him he needed to get out more.

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    I would disagree. I think you might be blurring the distinction between reformed theology proper and the neo-reformed culture that much of the church has embraced. I would classify myself as someone very concerned with mission and a simple, neo-anabaptist ecclesiology but I also hold quite firmly to the five solas and the five points. I am certainly not unique in this respect. I also have to wonder how salvation through Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone could possibly be “anti-missional”? Is it missional to proclaim a message other than that?

  3. davidfitch says:

    Arthur,
    In terms of your question, what I am referring to is the tendency to make salvation into a personal transaction for benefits that accrue to me as opposed to part of what God is doing inthe whole world of which I am ivited to become part of. What is “not Missional” then about this individualizing of salvation is that it becomes selfish, transactional and narcissitic as opposed to part of God’s grand Mission to transform the whole world, in reconciliation, righteouessness and renewal of all things. Hope that clarifies.

    • Andrew says:

      One thought on this: isn’t it the Reformed who are criticized for being too theocentric? I.e., their God is the consummate narcissist because salvation is all about glorifying God and not humanity, etc.? That doesn’t seem to fit with the narrative of Reformed theology as making everything about individual people…

    • Linda says:

      My understanding of reformed theology is that salvation is not viewed as a personal transaction but as unconditional election based upon the reconciling work of Christ. This particular aspect of reformed theology is most conducive to missional expression.

      In my opinion, the reformed doctrines of total depravity and limited atonement are the greatest hindrances to missional theology. I agree with Tim that to the degree depravity is interpreted as shame it will be reflected as puritanism.

      • Mark says:

        the reformed doctrines of total depravity and limited atonement are the greatest hindrances to missional theology.

        I think you mean “biblical” doctrines.

        • David Brush says:

          Biblical? In what context? In who’s opinion? In what language?

          This sentiment that places human interpretation on the level biblical authority is what drives much of the contention at work in these type of discussions.

          Your comment may have been tongue in cheek, the internet makes it hard to tell.

          • Mark says:

            Biblical? In what context? In who’s opinion? In what language?

            Is it your contention human interpretation of God’s word is incapable of arriving at the Truth?

            To argue total depravity and limited atonement are the greatest hindrances to missional theology – is a neon light that says “I will not accept what the scripture is clear on”.

          • David Brush says:

            Mark,

            To point 1. No, but God’s truth is still mediated by our human condition.

            To point 2. Clear to who? Example: Is the main work of the cross the absolution of guilt, or the removal of shame (I am not saying it isn’t both)? Read theology from outside if the US and Europe and you might be surprised at what is ‘clear’ and what isn’t in regards to this matter…

      • Arthur Sido says:

        Linda,

        How exactly is limited atonement a hindrance to missionary theology? No one claims to know who the elect are so those who hold this position should be proclaiming the Gospel to all and trusting in God to give the increase. That is not some sort of weird Calvinist doctrine, it is Biblical evangelism.

        • Linda says:

          Arthur,
          The reconciling work of Christ by grace alone is one of the strengths of reformed theology. Ideally this proclamation would be the missional expression of reformed and neo-reformed groups.

          Because you hold firmly to the five points, I understand that you will not agree with the explanation of my statement. However, since you asked, it is my opinion that the arbitrariness of the doctrine of limited atonement is not conducive to an expansive and inclusive proclamation of the reconciling work of Christ.

          It would appear that there are enough variations of reformed theology that any generalization is not applicable to all.

    • Arthur Sido says:

      David, I guess what I am trying to say is…are you questioning the substance of the five solas (i.e. that we are saved by grace alone though faith alone in Christ alone) or are you just addressing the particular way that those doctrines are manifested in the neo-Reformed/neo-Puritan segments of the church?

  4. Alan Cross says:

    Lots to think about here. But, couldn’t you make the same case for pietism of any kind? Or, could you also say that the entire American experience delves into individualism and takes whatever theology we throw up against it with it if we are not prophetic and discerning? Perhaps the better approach is to cultivate a prophetic/missional stance in culture that critiques heavily the American consumer/individualistic approach to not just theology, but also to all of life. At whatever point any theology makes nice with the prevailing culture, it will cease to be missional. I am not saying that you have to be hostile or oppositional, I am just saying that we have to recognize that we are strangers in a strange land.

    Americanism is like a solvent when it comes to the church and I don’t know if Neo-Reformed theology is either aware of it or has the will to form a strong ecclesiology that stands against the solvent. But, I think that it can if the theologians would address it.

    • Jennifer says:

      Alan, I think this is an excellent and critical point. It’s rather neat in theory to trace actions and results back to theology held, but it rarely if ever works that way in practice (“In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.” – Yogi Berra).

      This reminded me of a quote from Orson Scott Card in an interview he did on religion in fiction and science fiction: “All humans are motivated by the same basic forces, regardless of their religious beliefs. And all humans will explain and excuse their actions by use of the vocabulary of their religion. But the religion did not provide the motivation, it provided the story.” (http://www.writing-world.com/sf/card.shtml)

      I think that there’s room for true faith in Christ to be an exception to that rule, but I think it bears true far more often than not.

  5. toddh says:

    I’m not sure that the neo-reformed are onto anything special here. A case could be made that there are elements of Anabaptist theology that can also hinder mission. I think you’ve correctly addressed the issues with neo-reformed theology, but that’s not to say you can’t find similar problems with your own tradition!

      • Roger says:

        Two questions:
        Unless I am missing something, it seems to me that every tradition expressed in the West tends to devolve into individualism – not just the Reformed. Doesn’t it seem likely that there are causal elements other than the “Sola’s”?

        What about Keller? Is he not really Reformed? It seems like “love” for him was expressed in the initial post but then his whole framework for ministry was summarily dismissed. Might it just be that the folks like Driscoll, Piper, Mohler, etc are not really that great of examples of classical Reformed theology?

      • Roger says:

        sorry – the reply was supposed to be for the whole thread but I could not move it after i posted

  6. Tim Soerens says:

    David and friends,
    Here is a take on how reformed theology can take us into mission:
    Grab a few friends, acknowledge your dependence on God and that all of life including our personal and cosmic salvation is a gift, with a grateful heart walk around your neighborhood to see the God of reconciliation at work all over the place, join in this work. repeat.

    From my observation the truly significant differences between reformed theology (a la Smith, Mouw, etc) and neo-puritanism (a la Piper, Driscoll, etc) is between a deep sense of gratitude vs. shame. Both are perhaps the greatest motivators for action and theological reflection. I think deep in the puritans heart, (I mean really deep) is a profound sense of shame that will only be liberated from lamentation. Usually, the cycle of the puritans is to beat themselves up which becomes a sabotage of their own beauty, glory, and agency (imago dei) which, when done with others can look like a theological movement, but it’s truly a theological grasping for personal control, which is decidedly not reformed.

  7. John choe says:

    it depends on what you mean by reformed. and where does covenant theology, one of the hallmarks of reformed theology, fit into this? covenant theology and e.g. Dutch Reformed (read bavinck) would clearly be against individualism and emphasizes the corporate nature of our relationship with the Lord. One of the problems that I see is that Baptists will take some aspects of Reformed (mostly the soteriology aspects) and not covenant theology, leading to what you describe. but this really isn’t reformed theology only a part of it.

    • Bob says:

      John,

      I was going to bring up the convenantal component of Neo-Reformed theology. This is the aspect that (to me) is the most compelling and ultimately drives the *conclusions* embodied in things like election and the solas.

      Adhering to a covenantal view of the Bible I think drives a “missional” view for God’s people but I think the content of that mission changes. It expands from “making disciples” to “being made into the people of God”. The end is union with God, not union with the church or with a community.

      That is not to say that the church is unnecessary (we are talking about God’s people–not a set of individuals) but rather that the church is just one more “container” of God’s will and action in the world (to make a people for Himself and make His dwelling among them).

  8. David,

    I think your analysis of the individualistic orientation of the neo-Reformed movement is correct in what it asserts the case to be for them eccleisologically, but I don’t know that I would go as far to say as you have that it is the solas being divorced from their European moorings that is the cause. I think the issue is more likely the eccleisology that is employed within the neo-Reformed network of believers and other low church evangelicals. Other similar low church evangelicals outside of these movements can tend towards individualism as well. I’ve been a part of many baptistic churches that erred towards individualism and lack of mission as you are mentioning above, yet did not hold to Reformed theological presuppositions. I think a malnourished eccleisology in many churches in America, neo-Reformed or not is the cause of individualism in the church.

    I think a larger problem within the neo-Reformed movement is the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of these solas, the forgetfulness of what the solas actually represented and should represent today. If, properly interpreted (as you offer above a fully fleshed out, meaningful view of the solas) these solas would actually provide the catalyst for mission in the church today and for a communal mission at that. I don’t know that we need a Catholic church to rail against for these to function today, but I do think we need to reappropriate the spirit of what they sought to convey in a more holistic manner. Could they be misinterpreting them because of the American context? I suppose so, but I don’t know that the context is the cause as much as general eccleisology and ignorance of the traditional meanings attached to these phrases.

    Dr. Ken Stewart has recently argued in his book, “The Ten Myths of Calvinism” that this movement has seemingly attempted to disconnect itself from the broad swath of the Reformed tradition that it follows and attempts to posit itself as an isolated renewal of Reformed theology. This accounts for the fact that they have failed to properly utilize the solas of the Reformation. Instead of appropriating them positively in the light they were meant to be taken, as the solas are filtered through an individualistic eccleisology, they tend to move towards the worst possible logical end they could and inhibiting misison. Again thought, I think weak eccleisology is the issue and not the sola per se.

    If, you wanted to argue on theological grounds that the neo-Reformed movement is ill-suited for mission, I might attempt to move from their view of God, the hidden decree, and double predestination. Here, I think you’d be on a safer ground: these issues create an in and out mentality toward the culture around them, focuses Christians towards their individual salvation (election) and thus, stultifies mission. Looking forward to diving into your book soon.

    • Alan Cross says:

      Another aspect of Reformed theology is the Cultural Mandate as proposed by Kuyper, Schaeffer, etc. This perspective is very missional in that it sends people into the whole world in all kinds of ways. I am not reformed, but there are definitely aspects of that theology that has encouraged me in missional engagement rather than discouraged me.

  9. John choe says:

    Randy,

    not sure I’d agree with your last paragraph, but I do with everything else. the individualism you’d see in some of the particularly baptist Reformed in common amongst non-Reformed as well and is common amongst low church across denominations. one of the things the church in america despeartely needs is to hear from those of other non-white backgrounds and immigrant Christians. The growth in churches actually is in these churches, and yet when we have church growth/planting conferences e.g. resurgence/acts29, catylst, etc.. it’s filled with white hipsters. This is not meant to say that these pastors/teachers are bad or well meaning, and have much to contribute. But it is to say that it’s a bit strange that there are not pastors/teachers of different backgrounds and recognition that the church in the US is much more varied. See Soong cha rah’s books.

    • John,

      I am actually part of an Acts 29 church in downtown Atlanta with an African American pastor that is highly multiracial. Of course, this is unusual in the movement and my pastor says as much all the time!

    • John,

      Should have said this in my last comment! I agree what Kuyper and the Dutch Reformed thinkers generally would be setup nicely for mission, but this is because their picture of God is differently oriented than other strands of Reformed thought. I’m thinking more in terms of those who really focus on double predestination as the linchpin of their system. There different ways to parse out sovereignty and I think Kuyper/Bavinck shift the focus a bit and create space for mission.

      I do stand by the fact that classical Reformed theology can create an in and out mentality and force Christians energy to be focused self-ward in examining their election.

  10. JR Rozko says:

    Some good thoughts & comments here. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that reformed theology MUST lead to some of the conclusions drawn here related to individualism, but it would seem that this will continue to be the case so long as it is driven by those same lingering Christendom assumptions and values that gave rise to it originally. This is precisely why the Anabaptist tradition and its theology has more to offer the Church in Post-Christendom. In deference to the reformers, Anabaptists fundamentally rejected the assumptions and structures of Christendom that reformation theology did not. Thus, they developed an inherently missional ecclesiology, which in turn served to enhance and refine their theology. Seems to me that the opportunity/challenge facing the neo-reformed in Post-Christendom is not so much the reformation of the church, but the reformation of their theology. Sadly, very few seem to be open to this invitation.

  11. David Fitch says:

    OK, OK … John … agreed … there is a covenantal aspect to Reformed theology, as well as there is a covenant community nature to what the Baptists all the “congregation” … unfortunately because of the emphasis on the church as volunteerist society in America, both forms of “covenantal” get undercut by the “Sola Christus” understood as there can be “no mediator other than Christ.”
    Likewise, Alan, I get the Kuyperian doctrine of common grace and all of culture as under His reign. Unfortunately, this form of engagement, tied to Christendom forms of influence as it is, ultimately (without the wonderful understandings of Anabaptist ecclesiology) turns into “culture war.” It becomes a form of triumphalism to bring in the Christian Nation. No?

    • Alan Cross says:

      Yes, it can do that David. I am formed from a Believer’s Church perspective, so I do not ascribe to the “take back America” or state-church view. I guess that I read the Cultural Mandate through an Anabaptist lense and the idea of seeding the gospel into every form of culture and society seems very missional to me. Chew up the meat and spit out the bones, so to speak.

      This brings me back to the idea that every movement can be given to insular leanings and self-focus because it is made up of people and that is what sin does to us. Anabaptists gave way to the Mennonites and even the Amish. They are not engaging the culture either. Reformed theology is not necessarily anti-missional in and of itself. I think that your ground to stand on becomes much firmer when you take a prophetic stance against the corrosion of individualism/consumerism that breaks down all theology and church movements in America. Of course, that is much harder to do because it is the air that we all breathe.

  12. David Goneau says:

    As one of your “presbyterian” friends from last night, I would argue that the soteriological individualism rests not at the feet of the Scottish Presbyterian migration but with the architects of the 2nd Great Awakening where revivalists become driven to create conversion experiences. Rather than depending upon the mysterious workings of the Spirit to convince and convert sinners, emotionally manipulative practices, such as the anxious bench, focused conversion upon the momentary and public decision of the individual. American Presbyterians, such as BB Warfield, Charles Hodges, Geerhardus Vos, always stressed the importance of the church, upholding a high view of baptism and the Lord’s supper. At Westminster Seminary (where Keller taught for some time) stress was always placed upon Union with Christ, the history of salvation as opposed to the order in which salvation is appropriation. We spent more time talking about how God’s kingdom has come in Christ (life and mission) while also recognizing how God’s kingdom has not yet found full expression. Our Reformed, Presbyterian, Westminster mission focused not on the establishment of the 5 Solas but on how we become the Agents of Christ’s kingdom, extending his rule and reign to individuals and communities still burdened under the darkness of this present evil age.

  13. John choe says:

    i would be curiouis how the R2K folks fit in there. Even though they tend to be high church, I would think they would be more aligned with individualism due to sacred/secular split. Just as with anything what the beliefs are are not necessarily how it’s practiced i.e. orthodoxy sometimes doesn’t translate to orthopraxy. which of course raises the question whether the orthodoxy held is not really what they think. say goes for kuyper/schaffer views… it can lead to this, but that’s not what is being said/written. there are certainly churches that are more true to these Reformed views e.g. Redeemer in NYC, Citylife in Boston, etc. I think actually the answer is to turn back to what is good in reformed theology and understanding what is really being said. Calvin for sure was not individualistic in the least bit. How many of those calling themselves reformed have actually read the institutes? It has a strong emphasis on the corporate nature of the covenant.

  14. David Fitch says:

    David, David, David .. Charles Finney was one of your people! and example of the americanizing of Reformed presbyterianism No? I think he would be an example of the morphing of Reformed theology … the fertile soil for the individualism of American protestantism (both liberal and evangelical versions) … (and the Princeton theologians made this fertile soil alot more fertile if you ask me).
    But in the end … I have hopes that Reformed theology can address this issue by addressing the Southern Baptist version of so-called Reformed theology. I think we need a forum to address such issues …

    • Alan Cross says:

      Even though Finney was initially a Presbyterian, he was rejected by the Presbyterians and he rejected them. He was trained as a lawyer and pragmatist and had a pretty sharp split with the Old Light Presbyterians that he thought were too focused on protecting their kingdoms.

      • David Fitch says:

        Yeah, Alan … right I agree … the question is … don’t the Princeton Presbyterians … still have to be held responsible for their “bastard” rogue child that left the house? I agree it’s an easy argumentative tool to ask thsi question, but seriously, that’s at the heart of what I’m saying lies at the root in the marriage between So Baptists and this version of Reformed theology.

        • David Goneau says:

          OK so what aspects of Reformed Theology exist in Finney. I don’t think the Pinceton Presbyterians do not have to take ownership of their rogue child. Finney didn’t derive his vision from the transplanted Solas, his vision formed from the first great awakening and arrogantly thought he could create those experiences. The focus then became creating individual response, which is far from what Princeton emphasized

          • davidfitch says:

            OK, Ok .. I have to now go do some research. But maybe you can save me the time? Why do they still call him presbyterian …albeit a “New presbyterian”? And I know he rejected Presbyterian, but all the people who discipled him were Princeton presbyterians, and so at age 29 he had a conversion experience which was the “fruit” of Prinecton discipleship? No? So maybe all those guys, the Hodges etc… who built theology upon the bedrock of an enlightenment epistemology … birthed what eventually became their child … their bastard one .. Finney? But this is all conjecture I admit … and of course …every family has a story of how the black sheep left the fold … and it was their fault (wink wink) …

          • David Goneau says:

            Read Finney’s memoirs and you will find that at no point did was he ever in line with Princetonian Presbyterian. He repudiates consistently the TULIP theology Rev. Gale. When encouraged to go to Princeton, he refused due to his fundamental disagreement with Reformed Presbyterianism (you can find his memoirs online at Gospel faith). You can’t depart from what you never affirmed. His experience of watching people converted drove him to create “measures” for creating conversion. I don’t think even Finney would have ever considered himself a “child” of reformed presbyterianism

    • David Goneau says:

      David, David, David– Yes finney was one of our people until he was ousted for the very emphases you’re trying to pin as developing from us. At least the conservative Presbyterian movement would never claim Finney as one of us. We would say he departed from us when he departed from the role of the church in the formation of disciples. I think Edwards embodied this well. For him, conversion was not primarily about the individual in a moment of decision but was manifested in the “religious affections” i.e. Christian character lived out within the community.

  15. Andrew says:

    I think there is a bit of an untrue dichotomy assumed in the original argument: that the only way Reformed Christianity can function missionally is by means of Christendom politics. I don’t see why that must be so, given the resources of the Reformed tradition, some of which have already been mentioned above in the comments of others. Just because the Calvinistic tradition is open to using the magistrate to honour Christ, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they can do.

  16. David Fitch says:

    BTW, as I go off to make a presentation here in a minute … thanks for all the great stuff here. Great Conversation. Thanks DF

  17. David Brush says:

    I think that in many ways the neo-reformed make an assumptive mistake. Despite paying lipservice to sola-fide there is a general mythology at work amongst reformed theologians that transformation is wrought through more concise and better theology. As you point out the theology at work is not interested in the missio Dei as much as an introspective missio ecclesia.

    Missio Dei places us in the work of participation in God’s mission of reconcilliation of his creation to him.

    Missio eccelsia, in my thought here, places us in the work of reconciling people and the church itself towards some pre-concieved notion of the empiracally right-believing and right-practicing church. Many reformed theologies entered into a metaphorical therapy session to ‘get it right’ but rather than emerging back into society seem to have gotten lost and have equated the point of theology as the analysis itself.

    I don’t think Missio Dei means some ecclesiastical free for all, but it does mean that the primary focus is external in focus.

  18. Bobby says:

    Some good thoughts here. I can say with a bit of certainty that embracing the “five’s” doesn’t inevitably lead to individualism and incompatability with being missional. I do see (and have personally had) the tendency to elevate those truths to a prominent place that is not effectual in evangelism. Like giving meat to an infant, if you will, and then getting upset when the child screams at it’s dissatisfying texture.

    I love the “five’s” and (as my blog post today shows) live missionally incarnational. I do have to admit that there was once a time when I desired to bring others to Christ through Calvin, now I only hope to be a part of the body that brings Christ to them.

    Point being: reformed theology doesn’t impair mission through individualism. Individual sin impairs mission in every theology including reformed or whatever flavor you choose.

  19. John choe says:

    bobby, I think you are right on here.

  20. Mark Powell says:

    not being of the reformed persuasion, i hesitate getting into a someone else’s family squabble, but throwing caution to the wind, i would say that david’s original observation — the tendency for salvation in the West to become individualized seems pretty clear, but i’m not sure it is just the solas of the reformation.

    anyway, perhaps a broadening of authority — beyond the text to the history of the church’s full production, as william j. abraham argues in “Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church” might help.

    the amazon product description reads:

    “Canonical Theism is a post-Protestant vision for the renewal of both theology and church. The editors call for the retrieval and redeployment of the full range of materials, persons, and practices that make up the canonical heritage of the church, including scripture, doctrine, sacred image, saints, sacraments, and more. The central thesis of the work is that the good and life-giving Holy Spirit has equipped the church with not only a canon of scripture but also with a rich canonical heritage of materials, persons, and practices. However, much of the latter has been ignored or cast aside. This unplumbed resource of canonical heritage waits for the church to rediscover its wealth. With a bold set of thirty theses, the authors chart and defend that mine of opportunity. They then invite the entire church to explore the benefits of their discoveries. This ambitious book offers insights to be integrated into the church body, renewing the faith that nourished converts, created saints, and upheld martyrs across the years.”

    the point here being, that might cause the church in the West to move beyond a personal, individualized interpretation of scripture, and a jesus and me walking arm in arm along the beach @ sunset.

  21. David, in working on the review of TEoE, I went back to a paper I wrote as a non-degree PhD student in Communications back in 2002. I did a paper on the impact of service on the reputation of the church and it’s ability to impact culture. I found a section where John Stott noted a few things about why the evangelical church abandoned social transformation in culture.

    I wonder if this isn’t a result of a couple of things that Stott notes:

    1. An over-reaction to the social gospel and the division of the gospel into “social” and “spiritual” categories. The most popular liberal spokesman of the social gospel, Walter Rauschen-Bush, declared, “It’s not a matter of getting individuals into heaven, but of transforming life on earth into the harmony of heaven.” In response, evangelicals made “getting into heaven” their chief and sometimes only concern.

    2. The spread of premillennialism. If the world is getting worse and worse and only Jesus at his coming can make it right, what point is there in trying to reform it now? Ray Stedman once made that exact point when he said, “No matter what the church does as God’s instrument in the world, the ultimate end of the world will be anarchy and chaos. . . . No, the church is not here to improve the world.”

    3. The spread of evangelical Christianity among the upper and middle classes who equated it, more and more, with their own personal well-being. It became more and more associated with self-absorbed individuals preoccupied with finding health and happiness for their own lives and maintaining the status quo in an unstable world. As this concern for the individual increased, concern for society at large decreased.

    Since this was birthed in the 20′s & 30′s it would likely have its full impact several years later. Adoption and adaptation by many groups, including the neo-reformed could have made this even more explicit in practice. As a SBC’er, I grew up this way back in the 70′s & 80′s before the rise of Mohler & other neo-reformed, with the exception of “the church becomes the invisible church, a collection of individuals to whom the church must now appeal to.” Consumerism hadn’t yet hit rural Alabama at that point too much!

  22. Jeremy Myers says:

    David,

    You want proof that you are right?

    How many comments do you get on your average post?

    Now, compare that with the amount of comments you will receive on this post, mostly from people who disagree with you.

    Reformed theology is primarily concerned with defending Reformed theology.

    Those who are not Reformed (or no longer Reformed, as in my case), realize that there are so many better things to be doing than arguing about theology.

    Anyway, watch your comment count soar on this post!

  23. Dave,

    Nice post. I hope the conference continues these fertile discussions.

    geoff

  24. Greg Dill says:

    Today, I think there are a good many within the Reformed camp who are Reformed simply because Reformed theology is cool. And, of course along with cool theology comes cool celebratory teachers. Enter: Piper, Driscoll, and Sproul, just to name a few. Today’s Reformed theology as I see it is more of a mixture between Puritanism, 18th century Revivalism, with a sprinkle of Calvinism. Add some really cool historical catechisms, some great theology books by Wayne Grudem, quotes by dead theologians, and you have yourself an Americanized version of Reformed Theology.

    But, I believe the Reformed theology boat is sinking rapidly. One, it has as you say, nothing to stand against anymore. Protestants are now fully immersed in their own separate camp from that of our Catholic brothers. Secondly, Reformed theology is extremely exclusive. The doctrine of Unconditional Election certainly doesn’t proclaim, “Come all to me who are weary and heavy-laden”. Instead, it says “Stand by, you may be chosen… or you may not.” Our post-modern (there’s that ugly word) generation seeks inclusivism void of any pre-conceived theological bents and societal taboos. And, this is why I think those of the Emergent Church, along with the Rob Bells and Brian McLarens are going to make the greatest impact upon this world since, well, the Reformation.

    This is why all the hoopla over Rob Bell, along with the back and forth bickering has nothing to do with Bell’s theology, but a battle over ideologies and a battle for power over the Evangelical community. Whose ideology will win? The Reformed camp is intimidated. After all, for centuries, Reformed theology has led the charge, but now it sees an oncoming ship that just very well may sink it. Perhaps it’s high time for a new victor, one that will not only lead a revival across the Western world, but will indeed reform what is Reformed.

    Peace.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      I tend to agree with Drew G. I. Hart’s assessment that the battle with the two different churches calling themselves Mars Hill is essentially about which church movement will win over the upwardly mobile affluent young white guys of the present and future. It only appears to matter which of these movements is going to “win” because American Protestants have some substantial tunnel vision. In the long run I don’t think either Driscoll or Bell matter.

      The assumption that long term change will happen via infiltration is explicit in neo-Calvinist though, especially in Driscoll’s case. He admonishes church members, particularly young men, to “engage culture”, “move upstream” and influence society. In this respect the neo-Calvinist movement has a social gospel that is in most respects a point-by-point rebuttal to what is considered the old liberal social gospel. If anything the problem with any kind of American “missional” approach to communal spiritual life is that Americans tend to want this spiritual formation to go out and “do” something rather than to be something. This is why Keller can get ripped apart by old-school Reformed folk for espousing the wrong kind of social gospel as they see things.

      Knowing a few people who like communal Christian life and the idea that a christian community is not necessarily obliged to embrace one social gospel or the other I can sometimes appreciate why many former evangelicals I’ve known converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, perhaps precisely they feel it skips past the problems inherent in all Western Christian practices and gets back to the real deal, as they perceive it. That there is no centralized church leadership also probably appeals to these American ex-evangelicals without them fully realizing it. :)

  25. schoff says:

    Focusing on the Sola’s is a great angle. I’d like to take a minor one which culminates in (as you wrote) the “Christian Nation”. Keller in a fairly recent presentation at UcalBerkeley made the statement that Religion is growing in the world, not declining, contrary to a view in the 20th Century that modernity/progress would “thin out” religion and Europe was the leading example.

    Keller than states, that Europe is unique and that thinning out was due to the binding of the church/Church with the State.

    This desire continues in the reformed space and still drives its people, it causes many problems, problems of deep compromise and is part (ala Milbank) of the creation of a hellish Church, or if you prefer a church that retains few of its children.

    For the reformed members of the Church, and Godly they can be, I think this is huge aside from its theological impact its practical impact allows them to “leap” from their church to their nation and ignore their neighborhood. One man’s opinion who preaches on occasion both with in the reformed and anabaptist space.

  26. davidfitch says:

    Schoff,
    Your phrase “its practical impact allows them to “leap” from their church to their nation and ignore their neighborhood” is the lingering question for me regarding the church and culture relationship intrinsic to Reformed theology. On the surface … all is great. In practice … its impulse is to pursue wider structures without an inherent politic first contextualized and worked out together as an incarnational presence.
    So I sometimes look at Guder and say “it all sounds good, but we have missed a step.” Likewise with Keller’s ecosystem …it all sounds great … but …… is there not a subtle assumption that society is transformed through infiltration – by individuals, taking up places in existing systems (business, government, arts). This certainly is a potential way to engage society as Christian, even historically predominant given some of Christian cultural consensus that existed for even business and government practice (but hardly any more). It now seems naive however, as as Anabaptist cumudgeon, to assume this is what will work in any given context, especially New York. For we will need to have the wherewithal to discern and extend Christian presense through a politic (albeit a vulnerable, incarnational one) of our own … We will have the need to discern whether indeed our schools, our governments, our homeless care institutions, our health care institutions are indeed doing good Kingdom work that we can join in with, or whether indeed these systems have become evil, given over to the powers, and need to be rejected. In rejecting or withdrawing, we withdtraw in active ways .. making good and just health care clinics possible by joining together and withdrawing paying our health insurance premiums to a system inherently built to thwart God’s healing and redemption. In light of this, it seems that CCDA and it’s three R’s might be closer to inhabiting neighbirhood for gospel …than say a Reformed ecosystem? Not pronouncing here just asking? what do you think?

    • schoff says:

      Fascinatingly your question(s) parallel the questions of the Radical Orthodox (RO) Seminar today at the Seminary, given the critiques here (and by Milbank) what do you do? I like where you are going, but I’d like to take a half step backwards, and say that we first need to extract the Statism from the Church, this is a teaching that I personally need as do my brothers and sisters in Christ as we live together. Even in the anabaptist church that has accepted me into its community, statism is there lurking in the thinking.

      Creating just local institutions beyond the Church itself is a great path and some of this exists around Mennonite USA like Everence in finance, and there are other examples in health care. None of them are particularly top of mind though.

      There are some some other things to add to your stack, such as the sharing economy model (shareable.net being the gateway to that model), it is an attempt to push back naked consumerism an ideological ally of today’s statism. For money that I can’t give away I lend through lendingclub.com which I think removes some of the evil of the financial system on a systematic basis but is/canbe a real releaser from prison for individuals who are in slavery to credit cards charging 30%+. I await someone to do this for school loans, as well as lendingclub.com model which allows the deacons to both payoff and lend. [There are others I could mention but since I have investments in them I won't be crass, but I am a true believer that the shareable, and personal network model IS an opportunity to push back financial injustice]

  27. Josh Mueller says:

    David, I have a question. Wasn’t European pietism highly individualistic and internalized in its theology as well? And yet it seems that it became the main catalyst for a greater engagement to care for the poor (through orphanages etc.) and for the modern missionary movement. Where would you see then the main difference between people like Spener and Zinzendorf, and contemporary proponents of the neo-Reformed brand? Or would you see the same shortcomings in Pietism as well, since it was missionary but not necessarily missional?

    • David Fitch says:

      Josh,
      I don’t think I know Spener, Zizendorf well enough to really know the ecclesiologies that evolved if any (didn’t they stay within Liutheranism?). But it doesn’t surprise me that such a movement towards “personal” experience, piety and commitment would result in more submission to the church and/or service to the poor because Luthernaism itself I think renewed the church in these ways in Europe. It was only later that Enlightenment influences started to manifest themselves when transported to “the wild frontier.” I admit that’s only one interpretation. You could contend that Puritian communities in Massachusetts were highly communal because they basically set up little Europes just like the Dutch Calvinists set up in every town they founded. This is why I think this critique somehow doesn’t land for Kuyperian Calvinists in some ways. Nonethless, I still think an argument can be made that years later, devoid of such a cultural foundation, the Reformed “Solas” made possible the indvidualism and defensiveness that seems more prevalent (although not always – there are exceptions!!) among the Neo-Reformed.

  28. JohnHenry says:

    Dave,

    I think Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind outlines the transfiguration of the Church on the American continent pretty well.

    John

  29. Mark says:

    Newbie here. I liked the article, as I do for most of Dr. Fitch’s blog. I stopped reading the comments because you are are too smart or something and it was making my head hurt.

    Anyway, I generally consider myself reformed, but I agree with much of Dr. Fitch’s writings, and the End Of Evangelicalism book almost made non-charasmatic me say amen. However, with all the sophisticated talk about neo-reformed vs. everyone else, I’d appreciate some direction to writings on how these different traditions actually differ in the day-to-day Christian life, perhaps personal, congregational, and missional.

    I visited Dr. Fitch’s church a few months ago cause I wanted to figure out the difference. The Sunday services were clearly different than my reformed church body down the street, but I still am not sure what the big difference is. In talking to attendees at LOTV that I knew from another reformed church, I was not able to pull out from them what the “missional” aspect of the LOTV church really was.

    Dr. Fitch – if there is any writing you’ve done to compare the rubber meets the road differences between reformed and “missional” I’d appreciate being pointed there. Or maybe it’s fodder for a new post. Thanks

  30. Mark,

    I’m glad you visited a bit ago. I don’t think you can discern the different Fitch is mentioning here just by attending a worship service (most often only superficial difference can be seen that quickly).

    I think the differences include a slow, intention orientation of all activities and dogmas around community rather than the individual, around processes/growth rather than arrivals or being “right”, around maturity/sanctification rather than legal justification, gospel as victory and life rather than freedom from death.

    The main difference practically are slow communal processes of discernment (and mission) rather than quick authoritative declaration (and conversions).

    Those are just my quick thought.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Geoff, but your quick thought words don’t help. That is what I expected someone to say, but your words generally describe how I would describe small groups systems I have been involved with. What is the difference between a Willow or Harvest small group and the LOTV missional group or order (I can’t remember what you call them)?

      I feel something is missing in my church, but I honestly don’t know how to specifically identify or communicate it. I’ve never been to an evangelical church that was just about the conversion. That being said, I have been to a lot of evangelical churches that suck at discipleship. It does seem to be, at a core, because of individualism, but we also admit it(In my experience, church small groups also tend to become an individualistic entity in themselves, which is partly why I stopped years ago). So is the difference just a level of desire to overcome individualism to form better community?

      Sorry about having this dialogue over the Internet, and for pirating your blog.

      • Bob says:

        Mark,

        I don’t know what your church experience has been but if you have only been to “low church” expressions (evangelical, Protestant churches) and have only read “recent” theology, I think I know what you’re missing: depth and richness.

        Take a wade into some deeper waters and read some of the older authors or systematic theologies. Explore monasticism and church history. Read about the heresies and the characters and debates that surrounded them and the creeds that came out of them.

        There’s a problem in the church today..the evangelical churches (where there is supposedly life and vitality) are shallow and leave people feeling inexpressibly empty. The liturgical churches (that are supposedly dying) have lost touch with the meanings and significance of the words they say each week.

        The life-altering, history-making, world-renewing message is there. I just don’t know why people aren’t hearing about it anymore. I guess we’re too busy complaining about what’s wrong–it takes a lot more work to start recalling what we’ve lost.

        • Mark says:

          Thanks Bob. I’ve had a little experience with “higher churches” than mine, but not much. It seems to me that there is some middle ground (which I believe is the thrust of many conversations I find here) that I must put effort into finding. All signs seem to be leading me to further my faith with practices not generally discussed or encouraged in churches I’ve been in. Which I guess is what made me post asking for specifics in the first place (it’s not as much fun figuring it out by myself).

  31. Josh Rowley says:

    I think the elephant in the room here is that David’s criticism of individualism applies to most evangelicals, not just neo-Reformed persons.

    Also, I think the observation that there is a difference between the Reformed theology of Mouw and Smith, on the one hand, and the neo-Reformed theology of Driscoll, Keller, Mohler, and Piper, on the other hand, is accurate. Mouw and Smith are not as conservative as neo-Reformed theologians; for example, Mouw and Smith are opposed to nationalism and militarism, and they are not opposed to the ordination of women. (And even though I have not jumped on the Keller bandwagon, I do appreciate that he has spoken up for peacemaking–it may not be fair to lump him together with Piper, Mohler, and the openly misogynistic Driscoll.)

    Finally, let me suggest that the Reformed theological house is a big house with many rooms, and that the neo-orthodox Reformed room has much to offer the missional conversation. Persons in the neo-Reformed room seem to mix Reformation theology, Calvinism (which tried to out-Calvin Calvin), garden-variety evangelicalism, and neo-Calvinism (which with its black-and-white certainty seems to be a reaction to postmodernity’s epistemic humility). Combine John Calvin, Charles Hodge, C. S. Lewis, and R. C. Sproul and you have a neo-Reformed thinker. Persons in the neo-orthodox Reformed room are also influenced by Calvin, but their subsequent influences include Karl Barth, the Niebuhr brothers, Lesslie Newbigin, William Placher, and Darrell Guder (who co-wrote the pioneering book that popularized “missional”).

  32. Tim Seiger says:

    Interesting discussion. One of the things I am observing as I read through the comments is that many of the commenters agree that individualism is a problem across the board especially in a western context. Fitch is then said to be unfairly singling out the reformed solas for the individualism critique. However, what I heard in Fitch’s argument is not that individualism isn’t present anywhere else rather I heard him argue that the solas, divorced from an actual entity to be reformed, will necessarily devolve into individualism. The crux of the argument then is that the de-evolution is not a perverting of the system but a natural consequence of the ideologizing/decontextualizing of the solas. Those who point out the western tendency to individualize everything have not, I don’t think, argued that the western individualizing tendency emerges from within the various systems of theology under discussion rather the individualizing is an extrinsic tendency. It is the extrinsic nature of the tendency that makes the observation irrelevant to the argument that Fitch is making. Am I missing something? What is the argument against the claim of a neccessary fall into individualism within the reformed tradition as articulated in the solas as opposed to the individualism being simply placed on top of any of the systematic theological constructions?

  33. David Fitch says:

    Tim Sieger,
    I owe u a beverage. Thanks for clarifying so well.

  34. Ron Henzel says:

    You have set up a straw man. The a, b, and c assertions you make under the heading “Without Something to Reform, Reformed Theology Devolves into Individualist Christianity” are unrecognizable by anyone who actually subscribes to Reformed theology—i.e., anyone who is committed to either the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards.

    To add to the irony, the whole “missional” framework, including the terminology, was invented by two Reformed Christians: David Bosch (Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa), and Lesslie Newbigin (Church of Scotland/Presbyterian).

  35. Jennifer says:

    There’s a lot of helpful warning to reformed folk in what you’ve said, Dave. And I’ve known reformed folk I think need just such correctives. They’ve been almost exclusively Reformed Baptist (and I would say, some anti-Reformed Baptist I know, too).

    The thing about the critique for me, is that it just doesn’t pan out in practice. The most missional church I’ve been a part of is part of the reformed tradition (and they predate, though not by much, Redeemer Pres NYC). They’ve got room to grow, but they do community – both in the sense of a vibrant life together and in discernment – better than any other church I’ve been around. They get the connectedness with the neighborhood and mission in the local rhythms of life. The leadership has an incredible humble openness and does a great job nurturing transformation and enabling people to own ministry. And for the most obvious fruit, they’ve planted many churches that continue and grow in many contexts.

    I guess I see the biggest danger of dismissing the missional potential of the Reformed tradition as missing out on all that can be learned from such churches in real practice. (Not to mention Keller. :) )

  36. I think this comment from Daniel Kirk is germane:

    He says he loves the Reformation, “But one of its most unfortunate legacies was its providing us a theological justification for separating our theology and teaching from our ethics and behavior. Faith is one thing. Works is something else. The faith we profess is crucial. The works we perform will all need to be forgiven.” (http://www.jrdkirk.com/2011/05/16/if-it-makes-you-a-jerk-its-not-good-theology/)

    I think this is another way of saying what Dave is suggesting in this post.

  37. Steve Martin says:

    There is ALWAYS something to reform.

    The church is constantly veering away from ‘the center’, which is the gospel (Christ Jesus and His forgiveness of sins).

    Constantly veering into ‘religiousity’…or into the law, or what ‘we do’.

    This is what Bonheoffer saw in American Protestantism.

    People not content to trust in Christ, alone…but on he ladder to a greater “spirituality”…whatever that is.

  38. Louis Quetel says:

    As M. Luther himself would say: you are most certainly correct!!!!

    Consider this: 1. Reformation theology was a means to call the Catholic Church back to its roots and scrape off the cultural accretions that spoiled its innocence and contributed to its temporal power and wealth. Luther’s unintentional break with Rome came only when his suggestions to rethink the meaning of certain practices and values (e.g. indulgences, the value of relics, the authority of the Pope vis a vis Councils etc) were categorically condemned.
    Reformation theology was merely a way to go back to the Bible and the early church and revive the religious culture of an age long gone. Reformation theology was never meant to have a life of its own. Just as all philosophy is a foot note to Plato (as I believe Whitehead suggested long ago!) all Reformation theology is a reaction against Rome. It lives and moves and has its being as an alternative to the Roman magisterium.

    2. Calvin’s theocratic vision while drawing life from Luther was significantly different than Luther. Calvin’s worship of law, logic, and the elevation of his Aquinas-like theological notions to heights that rivaled Rome in their claims, created a culture of believing in Geneva that was absolutist. There is not a lot of humility, doubt or tentativeness in this system. I believe this is part of the Reformation problem — and part of our problem with engaging the so called post modern world. We have the answers, we have the right system, we have the right (only) hermenutic, and those who don’t agree ….well they are reprobate, hell bound totally depraved sinners. The problem with this (and all theologies) is that they are the creative products of the human mind. They are secondary reflections on the TRUTH! Our theology is not the truth itself- it is reflection on the truth— The truth being Jesus himself and he left us stories not a systematic theology. As my teacher Robert Webber (at Wheaton College) put it: we should value all significant theological reflections but not make them idols.
    This is something that “evangelical” theologians seem to me to be almost totally ignorant of. Where is the humility in evangelical theology?
    By the way why did the Puritan experiment in the early USA fail?
    One of the reasons is that no one was pure enough. This sect was better and more rigorous than that one and as the New England Puritans got rich they began to abandon the Puritan culture in droves. Puritans (then and now) are great in pointing out the faults of others. That is not a compelling missional theology!
    3. For those of us passionate about mission: If not Reformed theology…what?
    Not enough space here! However– inviting people into vital caring communities that are a sign, witness and foretaste of the kingdom—
    this I believe is the key to a beautiful praxis of our faith. Does the church exist for itself or others? Do the people who follow Jesus have energy for others or don’t they? Missional theology can simply begin with Jesus words: Come and see!!!!!

  39. amelia morrison says:

    Hi, I found this blog in a search for the definition of “Canonical Theism ” I have a simplistic understanding of it but after reading parts of your conversations, i’m confused about Missional Theology? Also, can someone share the meaning of “praxis of our faith” I’m familiar with the dialectic and the terms thesis, antithesis, synthesis, cognitive dissonance, praxis, etc. Yet the meaning of the word praxis in the above expression is unclear.
    what does “passionate about mission” or “missional theology” mean. I’d just like to understand the terminology ; it would definitely help me understand more of the discussion.
    Also, the reference made to working for “the kingdom” Can you tell me how you view “the kingdom of heaven or/and kingdom of God. Is the kingdom here now or do christians need to do good works to bring the kingdom to earth. Other than that and perhaps a few more clarifications (you can certainly provide me with links so I can read something more definitional) I do understand various approaches to Biblical exegesis. Thank you

    • Alejandra says:

      I definitely agree that tares are the issue. Wheat will work for the kidongm in one accord, or at least come to one accord eventually–misunderstandings are bound to happen on this side of eternity. Divisions with the pastor and within congregations usually come because of a lack of focus on the most importance thing, Jesus Christ.I’m very happy with my current church as the pastoral staff love getting behind their congregations’ ideas and running with them, offering suggestions and corrections along the way, empowering the people of God rather than ruling them. It’s very refreshing to have that kind of environment.

  40. Steve says:

    I think endless discussions about why Reformed Theology /Neo-Reformed Theology hinders missions by people who think they know it all is the biggest hinderance to Missions.

  41. Rob de Roos says:

    I agree to the point that conservative Reformed theology seems to be saturated with camp ideology and sadly bereft an intellectual and ministry interest or focus in caring about the lost, the hurting, the downtrodden, etc … In this latter sense there will always be something to Reformed short of the eschatological consummation of Christ at His second coming.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "Why Neo-Reformed Theology Won’t Jive With Mission: I Plead My Case"
  1. [...] May 11, 2011 by Greg Does neo-Reformed theology work against missional living as the church? That is the question David Fitch is asking today. I was going to continue my review of The End of Evangelicalism? today but this post merited some [...]

  2. [...] and (in this case) American history. That in itself appears to be a contentious starting point for some. But, while I agree that care must be taken to avoid a  self-influenced interpretation of [...]

  3. [...] is from David Fitch, author of The End of Evangelicalism? among other things.  He discusses in this post the difference between the context of the Reformation and the context of contemporary American [...]

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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