Thursday, October 04, 2012

Revive us again

I’m going to piggyback on this post:

I’m not qualified to comment on Keller’s ministry. I don’t keep up with his ministry. About the only thing I’ve read of his is The Reason for God. I don’t listen to his sermons or interviews.

However, Matthew draws attention to some larger issues, and I’d like to expand on that:

1) There have been some towering Reformed missionaries and evangelists (e.g. William Carey, George Whitefield). More recently, Presbyterian missionaries have had a tremendous impact in S. Korea, and–by extension–Korean-Americans.

2) However, there’s a strain of Calvinists who are hostile to evangelism and revivalism. Historic examples are the Old Light/New Light and Old Side/New Side controversies. More recently, D. G. Hart is the reincarnation of Charles Chauncy–nemesis of Jonathan Edwards.

In the same vein, Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the following observation:

I would say that this change of outlook on the part of Calvinists came in the U.S.A., somewhere between Archibald Alexander and Charles Hodge. Charles Hodge, as you know, was the successor of Archibald Alexander in the theological seminary at Princeton. Now Archibald Alexander had had experience of revival in his early days. Charles Hodge knew something about it, but not to the same extent as Alexander, who was an older man and who belonged partly to the previous century.

“Revival: An Historical and Theological Survey,” The Puritans (Banner of Truth 1987), 8.

As the heir to Welsh Calvinist Methodism (e.g. Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris, William Williams, Christmas Evans), Lloyd-Jones avidly supported revival.

I’m also reminded of an essay Robert Lewis Dabney wrote critiquing Dwight Moody (“Lay-Preaching”). Now, Moody was no match for Dabney’s theological acumen. The problem, though, is that at the time of writing there was no Reformed counterparty to Moody.

It’s not enough to criticize the efforts of others. If their efforts are seriously deficient, we need to lead by example. Do it better. Provide a constructive alternative.

3) Apropos (2), in some Reformed circles there appears to a knee-jerk hostility towards The Gospel Coalition and megachurch Reformed pastors. It seems as if they regard success as an infallible sign of compromise. This fosters a defeatist attitude, where we should always lower our expectations. Proudly content ourselves to be small, ingrown, and irrelevant.

We need to avoid the temptation of becoming cranky reactionaries who sit in the cheap seats, jeering and hurling rotten tomatoes at those who are in the trenches, doing the hard work.


  1. I rather enjoyed Matt's article and I think this is a nice followup.

    I imagine that you and Matt probably already know about these, but perhaps they dovetail well with what you two are saying: Turk on Keller 1 and Turk on Keller 2.

    Much like the post that Matt addressed, the near-complete inability of the Pyro peanut gallery to say anything positive about Keller's performance at the Veritas Forum was stunning.

    The comments, especially in the first link, even by people like Dan Phillips are just sickeningly myopic, bordering on incurvatus in se.

  2. hostility towards The Gospel Coalition

    For my part, I'm not hostile toward TGC but my enthusiasm for TGC is certainly flagging due to their lack of non-support for Driscoll, MacDonald, et al.

  3. Also piggybacking on Matt's post, it might be helpful (if it hasn't already been done) if someone like Mark Dever who is a Southerner, an SBC pastor, Reformed, intelligent, educated at an Ivy League level university (Duke), but theologically educated in the North (Gordon-Conwell) and also the UK (Cambridge), and by all accounts a good evangelist could offer his take on how to effectively communicate the gospel to the sort of audience Keller is addressing. Not only, of course, for the sake of evangelism, but also for the sake of the stuffier or more reactionary Reformed critics of Keller, maybe even in the hopes of bringing them around.