I am regularly asked why I don’t go to the largest, fastest growing church where most twenty somethings go in our town. It doesn’t make sense to some why my wife and I choose to be part of a simple average sized church. By Bible-Belt expectations, I shouldn’t want to go to church where the worship is boring and the teaching is irrelevant. However, I find the Reformed Baptist tradition and others like it not only compelling but needed for my generation in particular.
My generation grew up in a declining fundamentalism and a rise in “attractional” or “seeker sensitive” churches. Entertainment started being thrown at us every week in an effort to keep church relevant for teens who seemed to be leaving after having gone off to college. Now we are adults and an entertainment church with a program or ministry to offer for everyone is the assumed model. In this context, many are finding the Reformed tradition refreshing.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
The answer for the restless young Christian is not deemphasizing doctrine but rather a theology that takes God seriously. This is evidenced in the rise of the “Young, Restless and Reformed.” Substance was found where something was obviously lacking. Reformed theology was the answer to my discontented faith. I found a reasonable faith that not only answered my questions regarding Christianity but quenched a thirst for spiritual growth that lacked what was to be found in contiual substance. This led to an empowering knowledge and relationship with God that then led to experiential devotional practice.
Reformed theology presents us with a God who is more than we realized before, sin that is greater than we previously thought, grace that is even greater, and people who seek a real relationship with God. A real relationship requires that we learn about someone else. Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying that professional theologians are the only ones who can truly know God. Rather, I recognize that everyone is a theologian. We want to know God, the question is how are we attempting to know Him? We must find God through Scripture alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone. Anything else will be found lacking.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24
At least from my experience, there seems to be a growing interest in a liturgical styled church service. Millennials in particular are often attracted to this format of worship and I don’t think it is due to hipster inclination. A simple but serious service is compelling when in most worship experiences casualness replaces reverence. Instead of showing up on Sunday morning to “experience worship” we arrive to participate in worshiping in spirit and in truth. Typically, Reformed churches follow a simple recipe for corporate worship that is Word-centered. Praying God’s Word, Singing God’s Word, Preaching God’s Word, Seeing the Word through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as well as fellowshipping around God’s Word. I found these simple but real acts of worship to be fulfilling on Sunday mornings. A Word-centered service that is simple, structured, repetitive, and consistent becomes attractive because it is what we need.
From a cultural-Christianity perspective it is unlikely that I would be a Reformed Baptist. However unlikely, I am glad that the Lord has brought me to this tradition. Of course no tradition is perfect no matter how thankful we are to be a part. So let us all seek to know God through the scriptures, and worshiping together in spirit and in truth.
Grace and Peace,
8 thoughts on “I Shouldn’t Be a Reformed Baptist”
Actually, you’re a textbook case. Given the popularity of the Reformed school of thought – you’re exactly where you should be at, doing exactly what you should be doing – and you’re just like everyone else in the same boat. I’m the odd one out for not buying into the popular thing. I’m the sort to dance to the beat of different drum. Whatever everybody else is into, I’m not. So in your book, I’m a heretic because I’m not on the same page that you are. In other words, I’m your theological opposite.
If you’re a Calvinist, I’m an Arminian. If you’re a Complementarian, I’m an Egalitarian. If you’re Reformed, I’m not. I meet people just like you just about everywhere I turn. But people like me – not so much. But you are a culture within Christianity in your own right, and a powerful one. In many ways more powerful than mine. I’m surprised you don’t know how powerful and popular you are, but perhaps that’s because you don’t often meet enough outsiders who have different perspectives. Everywhere I look, some reformed teacher is the big deal – Ligonier, Desiring God, Grace to You, CBMW, Acts 29, TGC; I can’t think of very many non-reformed teachers that have even half the following of your team – Olson is a prominent Arminian, but we don’t have nearly as many heavyweights.
Thanks for your comment Jamie. I’m not sure where you live but widely speaking reformed churches are a minority among what is considered evangelicalism. I would say Reformed Baptist are a minority within that minority. Although, you are correct about the growth of Reformed traditions. I think this has been happening for a while now. I am thankful for the ministries that you mentioned. They are doing a great job of getting the reformed perspective and teaching out there. More importantly, I wouldn’t embrace a belief just because it goes against what your perceive as mainstream. There is nothing heroic or virtuous about being different for the sake of being different. We should look to scripture alone to figure out our theology.
Grace and Peace.
I do my best to believe what Jesus believed, but I don’t believe that he was Reformed or Calvinist or Protestant or Evangelical in the way that those school of thoughts operate today.
Jamie, I also think you misunderstand the true nature of the situation. Although there has been a resurgence of Calvinist soteriology especially in some Baptist circles (primarily in the SBC and among some Fundamentalist Baptist groups), I don’t think it is accurate to present us as in a majority or more powerful in influence based on your own limited experience. I guess if you are spending a lot of time in areas or with groups that are heavily populated by people of this background, you could get the impression that you’ve shared here. However, if individual experience is anything to go by, then all I can say is that my experience over the past 30 years has been very different from yours! Although I don’t always agree with the polling practices of the Barna Group, a study they did back in 2010, for example, certainly didn’t show a majority of Calvinists versus Arminians. See here: https://www.barna.com/research/is-there-a-reformed-movement-in-american-churches/
To be sure, as I have agreed, although there are a growing number of Calvinists in certain, more conservative Evangelical circles (hence their tendency also to be Complementarian, as you have noted), and our numbers among these group may even have risen since the above linked Barna study, I would still say that we are a minority among self-professing Evangelicals. At any rate, Danny’s article was about his own generation rather than the larger Evangelical population.
Considering that I watch Calvinism tear my SBC church asunder and pull the rug from under my fellow Arminians, all I see is how powerful you all are and how weak my side is in comparison. Y’all took over a whole denomination, the Conservative Resurgence, y’all voted out people who didn’t agree with you, y’all organized conferences and didn’t invite moderates or liberals to take a seat at the table. More and more I see your teachers. Y’all won.
Well, Jaimie, I’m not a member of the SBC, but I know many who are, and they would not share your assessment. Again, I think you are allowing your own limited experience to skew your perspective. For example, Lifeway published poll results back in 2012 which demonstrated that Calvinists were definitely in the minority (and a fairly small minority at that). While some gains have surely been made since then, I doubt they have become such a powerful majority as you claim in only five years (even if some have risen to prominence in the SBC), and my own experience again certainly belies such a notion. Anyway, thanks for having the courage to share your point of view. We welcome differing perspectives and hope to engage in fruitful dialog on such matters.
Jamie, I am truly sorry to hear that you feel hurt in this way. I am not part of the SBC and never have been. I have opinions about the resurgence of reformed theology within the SBC however I do not think I have the experience to speak to your concerns. I do hope you hear this, my post and reformed theology as a whole isn’t about winning. Rather, it is the pursuit of truth for the sake of knowing God. I am aware of abuses in the name of “reformed theology” and they are unacceptable. However, we can not be blamed for holding fast to what we believe to be true. God has called us to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
Grace and Peace.
One more thing, Jaimie, albeit a bit off the specific topic. You mentioned Olson as a “heavyweight” on the Arminian side, but I have found him to be a bit unfair in his assessment of Calvinists in the past, as my response to one of his older articles suggests. It is entitled The “God of Calvinism” is the God of the Bible, and you can read it here if you are interested: https://reformedbaptistblog.com/2007/09/05/the-god-of-calvinism-is-the-god-of-the-bible/