Friday, December 23, 2011

HT Wartburg: Whither YRR?

http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/12/22/is-the-sun-setting-on-yrr-aka-new-calvinism/
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/12/20/whither-yrr/

DeYoung mentions three challenges he believes face the young, restless and Reformed.  Ecclesiology, missiology, and sanctification.

YRR ecclesiology may be thin because since so many of them are evangelical they retain the committment to pragmatism that they think they have shaken off because they don't see themselves as seeker-sensitive.  Those that actually have roots in Baptist or Presbyterian ecclesiology have the advantage of not having to reinvent the wheel, which is not something the non-denominational or parachurch institutions have.  It's easy for a pastor who is in his twenties to dismiss denominations as old hat but a multi-site church that has ten campuses in three states is still functionally a denomination even if it's just one pastor whose sermon is preached live at one campus and then shipped out via DVD to video venues where everyone else in the church gets the same sermon a week later. By the time that pastor is in his forties and more than ten thousand people attend the campuses he's basically got a denomination on his hands if the church doesn't die a slow or quick miserable death after he passes on. 

Missiology would seem like something YRR's should have slam-dunked but this would only be true of what YRR's were pretty sure they'd have slam-dunked by now.  Now it's something like a decade later.  No slam dunk.  Surprise.  Two kingdom theology and transformational models are never likely to agree. 

The old cliche from the Mars Hill days would be these two things are in "tension" and need to be held together without letting go of either.  But, to borrow yet another Mars Hill cliche, the three pound fallen brain can't keep these things together indefinitely and so one of the two will at length (and not much length!) become more appealing than the other.  Despite Mars Hill's formal repudiation of theonomistic ideals the whole "redeeming culture" meme runs straight along a path in which it is proposed that eventually enough Christians can get "upstream" to "influence culture".  It's no wonder liberal Seattle secularists see this as nothing more than a more covert or guerrila version of culture war.  That's because that's what it essentially is.   They're not nearly as dumb as you may think they are, guys.  :)

And then there's sanctification. I have written at length about my suspicion that the real appeal of the young, restless Reformed camp is that they promise young men something, specifically young men.  For people with a more conventional "evangelical" or fundamentalist or Wesleyan background the promise in the neo-Calvinist movement takes on a particular sales pitch.  Drinking with Luther and Calvin, for instance. Mark Driscoll's Peasant Princess series.  Smoking cigars and talking about theology and stuff like that.  Young men have gotten a kind of meta-textual promise through the neo-Calvinist movement that they can drink, smoke, and seek to get laid (in holy matrimony of course) and it's all good.  In fact it's God's design for them. 

The neo-Calvinists think the sales pitch is how solid they are on doctrine but after ten years and witnessing how incoherent things can actually be amongst the YRR's, as even Kevin DeYoung has noted by now, I would suggest the time has been more than ripe to point out that the strongest appeal the YRR movement has had, now that it's advocates are probably closer to middle-age, is a cultural or social sales pitch more than some kind of doctrinal or ecclesiological coherence.  Living as I have in Seattle I think that Driscoll probably exemplifies this best in my neck of the woods.  Driscoll can attempt to split the difference between definite atonement and unlimited atonement by saying that the atonement covers the entirety of creation yet has salvific effects only for the elect and Reformed folks will say he's trying to cheat his way out of committing to the L in the TULIP.  I don't see it as being that cut and dried because in a case where I may surprise a handful of people, I think Driscoll has been right to say that we can't pin down the atonement to having a single function. 

But the sales pitch Driscoll has explicitly tied himself to in the last fifteen years is "get the young men" and that whole "sex with the wife once a day" line from the "banned" video can be seen as  merely a single case in a long sequence of sales pitches.  The idea is to make Christianity relevant to young men and what better way to make it relevant to young men than to make an appeal that being a Christian doesn't mean you have to stop being a dude.  You don't have to be some chickafied evanjellyfish, you can drink, smoke, and get laid once you find the right girl and seal the deal and lead her like you're supposed to.  Along the way several wheels will get reinvented but that's okay because this is about a new movement that is getting to the real deal. 

Having once more firmly identified myself as YRR and now being more vanilla Presbyterian I would suggest that one of the core questions YRR's need to ask themselves now that they're closer to forty than thiry is what the real sales pitch has been all these years.  I'm not so sure the sales pitch has really been "Reformed" at all.  I'm not sure the sales pitch has even been Calvinist soteriology.  It might be something else and to the extent that people like MacArthur have identified that sales pitch as having a certain cultural cache rather than a coherent approach to doctrine MacArthur may continue to do these guys a favor by not taking them as seriously as they take themselves.  Not that I'm a MacArthur fan at all (see the rest of this blog) but MacArthur's stance against some of the poster boys of the YRR team and some of their stunts can still be appreciated.

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