Bill Evans’ piece on the decline of conservative Reformed Protestantism has been making the rounds and it raises an important question about the better and worse times in church history. He starts by noting that conservative Presbyterians are not as influential as they once were:
A while back my friend Anthony Bradley posted an insightful and provocative blog piece asking why the popular influence of conservative Presbyterians prominent a few decades back (e.g., Jim Boice, R. C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, and John Frame) seems to have waned in comparison to Baptists of a broadly Reformed soteriological persuasion. I posted an extended comment at the time, and thought I would expand on it here.
There are at least two big issues in play—the Baptistic Reformed success as driven by institutions (e.g., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Founders’ Movement) and gifted individuals (e.g., Don Carson, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll) on the one hand, [emphasis mine] and the apparent Presbyterian decline on the other. As a Presbyterian I’m not particularly well equipped to comment on the first, but I think I have something to offer about the second.
Driscoll has repeatedly held that congregational rule is like allowing the mentally ill to run the psychiatric ward they are kept in. That would make it hard to argue that Driscoll is in any sense a baptist about ecclesiology or church polity even if he's allied himself with particular Baptists (as in particular atonement, Baptist polity).
As for Reformed, he's certainly Reformed in the sense that he keeps telling us that's his tribe. It's not particularly set in stone because he might shake hands with a T. D Jakes at Elephant Room 2 last year (which got some summary commentary from Trevin Wax) or telling The Gospel Coalition that some of his Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel (Osteen) like a pinata. Of course Driscoll treated Osteen like a pinata back in The Rebel's Guide to Joy, but it was in Christian love and things change. For a guy who has publicly sounded off against women in ministry as ardently as Driscoll has you would have thought that Jakes might have been less readily endorsed for having played a role in backing the ministry of Paula White. But as Driscoll was underscoring over and over, he was open to learning from other tribes.
In the case of Jakes and associates, was may be the most significant element to emphasize. Try to follow the link to The Elephant Room website that's over here at The Resurgence. Or at least there used to be stuff at the website. Now all you get is this. Even if you follow this:
As I was writing about Mars Hill on the Andrew situation, some folks engaged in a massive information and media purge somewhere along the line. Maybe after the Elephant's Debt went up the Elephant Room was just not as critical. There's a new update in the last few days over there at The Elephant's Debt, for those who are curious.