At the end of every year people write their evaluation blog posts. Kevin DeYoung has produced his where he critiques the Young, Resltess, and Reformed (YRR) “movement”. I want to take a moment and give my own critique. I would encourage you to read his post to get a bit of background and also take note of his helpful suggestions.
I think Kevin is correct in his critiques. I would however add one and that is of dogmatic clarity. I think Kevin might argue that he holds to a similar critique when he argues for folks to go deeper into their ecclesiastical traditions. I am arguing here for something a bit deeper and more specific.
Whenever conversations about YRR come up there are three terms that are used almost interchangably: Evangelical, Calvinist, and Reformed. It’s as if to be truly Evangelical one must be a Calvinist and to be a Calvinist means that you are Reformed. These words actually h
old specific meanings and while they are connected, they are by no means to be equated.
To be an Evangelical means, in its most simplest terms, that one believes in the Trinity, that the Bible is the authentic and authoritative word of God, and that to be reconciled with God one must trust in the atoning work of Jesus. To be a Calvinist, in its simplest terms, means that one holds to the soteriological position outlined in TULIP (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints). To be Reformed means that one holds to covenantal theology as outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
What are the hallmarks of the Reformed faith beyond a Calvinist understanding of soteriology?
First, it is covenantal. There are only two covenants, that of works and that of grace. The covenant of grace is revealed organically through history. This means that the Scriptures are a unified whole without discontinuity.
Second, this leads to two distinctions practically. The first is a federal form of government, often times called “presbyterian” because it is built through a connectional system of representative elders. It also holds to paedobaptism because children are clearly included in the covenant community in Genesis and are never stated to be excluded.
This means that to be Reformed is very different from being a Calvinist. Calvinism is a part of being Reformed but it does not equate. The same can be said of evangelicalism. A Reformed believer, necessarily is evangelical, but it does not go both ways.
I think that we need to begin to more clear about who we are talking about as “Reformed.” Many Calvinist Baptists are equated with being “Reformed”. This makes the dogmatic waters muddy. Michael Horton and John Piper hold to very different positions on key issues. Why? Because Horton is Reformed and Piper is not, he is decidedly Baptist. Their differneces are good and healthy because they hold to different perspectives on the Scriptures. While they are in the same camp, these brothers do not share a tent.
Where do we go from here? I think that we need to let the YRR label go. It is not properly descriptive. It’s time to clarify the positions that are being held to because they matter. These variety of positions will further the conversations that need to happen. If we can understand that there are real differences between Baptists and Presbyterians and Non-Denominationals and whoever else we will be able to have real conversations about real issues.
I am thankful for Calvinist brothers and sisters of other traditions. But we have very real differences and those differences provide fertile ground for learning, growth, and development. In the name of unity we must not set aside our real distinctions but we must embrace them and allow the distinctions to draw us closer. When this happens, it will be evidence of maturity within the movement.
Unity in diversity ought to be the hallmark of the New Calvinist (the appropriate label for the shift)movement. Not a muddy murky sudo ecumenicalism that does not take one another seriously.