Those who are opposed to the young Reformed movement (think Young, Restless, Reformed) often refer to it as the NeoReformed. Scot McKnight thinks he may have invented that term (“NeoReformed”). His reason for thinking that is because back in 2009 he write a blog on it – “Who are the NeoReformed?”
McKnight suggested that the NeoReformed are a “new form of Fundamentalism” and suggests that they could also be called the “NeoFundamentalists.” What kind of characteristics does he suggest the NeoReformed have? He wrote,
“The NeoReformed, for a variety of reasons, some of them good, don’t recognize that evangelicalism as a village green. Instead, they want to build a gate at the gate-less village green and require Reformed confessions and credentials to enter onto the village green. Put differently, they think the only legitimate and the only faithful evangelicals are Reformed. Really Reformed. In other words, they are “confessing” evangelicals. The only true evangelical is a Reformed evangelical. They are more than happy to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn’t believe in classic Reformed doctrines, like double predestination. The palpable observation here is that many of us think the NeoReformed are as attached to Tradition (read Westminster etc) as they are to sola scriptura.”
Those are some bold statements. And if you ask me, ridiculous statements. It’s nothing against McKnight… I have a lot of respect for his scholarship and contributions to the Church. He has done a lot. But which voice within the “NeoReformed” movement fits this description? Which “young, restless, and Reformed” pastor or theologian suggests that the “only legitimate and only faithful evangelicals are Reformed”? I’m unaware of any who take such a hard stance on these issues.
I’m not saying that they don’t exist… I’m just saying that I’ve never encountered those characteristics as representative of this movement that I find myself inside of (I’m 32 year’s old, missional, and Reformed). Is there an official spokesman that I’m unaware of?
So I’d really like to know just who falls into the category of “NeoReformed” and what exactly causes them to be given that designation. I know Driscoll is constantly given that label by those who take issue with his view on gender roles. Are there any others within this “movement” that legitimately believe that the Reformed faith has the only claim to evangelicalism?
What do you think?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
May I suggest that you forward this post to Mr. McKnight? Give him a chance to respond? Speaking only for myself, I certainly don’t think that only “reformed” evangelicals are the only true or faithful Christians. I attend a Vineyard church where many are not reformed. Not anti-reformed, just non-reformed. They all love Jesus and seek His will where they can.That said though, here are a few observations. Firstly, just because evangelicalism is a “village green” (though that statement needs defending), doesn’t mean there isn’t a right or wrong answer to these questions. I may not hold that only reformed people are true or faithful Christians, but we do have the best theology, and that’s just my stance.
Secondly, as I have said to you before, evangelicalism is a socio-religous, semi-political movement, but is not the Church. Jesus didn’t die for evangelicalism, but for the Church. We can’t always see visibly the distinction, but it’s there. Evangelicalism may continue on its path of cultural capitulation, but the Church will grow ever stronger through its witness and suffering.Thirdly, I am a mild restorationist, and believe that one day God’s people will “no longer be tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men… (Ephesians 4:14). That said, I believe that towards the end, the Church will begin to throw off some of its dead theological weight (not perfectly, but surely) and enter into new levels of unity. Reformed views will prevail, cessationism will die, and so on. This is not latter rain theology because the revealing of the Sons of God will only occur after Christ’s return.However, none of this is to imply that the “Reformed Resurgence” or “neo-calvinism” as a religious movement will be the catalyst for all of this. Only God knows how the story will end. Blessings!
McKnight was asked several times in his post to clarify this statement. As I read through the comments (there were a lot)… no examples were really given. Some of his readers suggested The Gospel Coalition and had some names as examples, but nothing substantial to help clarify this term and THIS definition.
I agree with everything else you said. And I find many other “young Reformed” folks who do too. So why do we constantly get pegged as “NeoReformed” and as “NeoFundamentalists”? That’s my question.
Maybe I should use the term “NeoAnabaptist” and say that “NeoAnabaptists” only believe that they are true evangelicals 🙂 Or… maybe not.
But seriously… this seems to be a great example of discrediting a position by misrepresenting a position… though it’s understandable since this “movement” isn’t really under one specific banner.
But I’m Reformed, a Continuationist, Baptistic, Premillennial (historic) and a part of the evangelical tradition… along with a lot of Arminians, Lutherans, and Dispensationalists… I hope.
I think “young reformed” people get pegged that way precisely to discredit the movement. At the risk of theological snobbery, I think Theo-centric reformed emphases strike at the heart of pride, cultural capitulation, and other unbiblical attitudes. That is not to say that “neo-calvinism” never has pride issues, of course it does. We’ve all met “cage-stage” Calvinists!
But when those reformed emphases hit a nerve, others sometimes lash out with knocking down strawmen, misrepresentation, etc… The same thing happened when Jesus taught that he was the Bread of Life (John 6). Christ went from thousands of followers to just twelve.
Lastly, I too am Reformed, Continuationist, very soft credo-baptist, Fulfillment Theologian, Complimentarian, and Historic Premillennial from the conservative evangelical tradition. With me, are paedobaptists, amillennialists, egalitarians, dispensationalists, and so on. But you already knew that. 😉
Looks like you and I are the only Christians alive.
Yeah… I think discrediting is largely a part of how it is used… 😉
HAHAHA (only Christians!).
I know that I’ve been in general evangelical situations (that were supposed to be interdenominational) where the Calvinists were thinking none of the Arminians were saved and were trying to figure out how to eradicate their dangerous presence, and the Arminians (not that most of us even knew the terminology then… there were just specific doctrines that made one in or outside of the interdenominational fold, and these happened to be Calvinistic as I would later learn) were just sort of shocked that they could think thus b/c the Arminians were viewing all of them as part of the Church and were just trying to do their part of evangelizing and discipling alongside them using slightly different methods to reach a different personality type. They were viewing the Calvinistically-oriented organizations as comrades but weren’t getting the same response.
There’s been a theme for me of coming across a lot of people who’ve had these experiences as well as some who’ve been distinctly abused by their particular reformed churches (not that this is a reformed only phenomenon, but naturally our traumas get wrapped up in the theologies of those experiences), so even though there are guys like you who are happily mingling w/ the likes of us, I hesitate to think that this is mostly a system of discrediting. I’ve been wrestling w/ it since you brought it up today. It might be very unfair, and it might be that I’ve had unusual circumstances. But I’ve certainly had this growing impression of reformed circles–even though (or sometimes because) I have reformed friends on staff w/ CCC and am friends w/ PCA pastors and was involved w/ a PCA church (it was kind of them to let me be with them for awhile).
I think I should abandon using the term, but I do see a lot of pressure in evangelicalism to self-describe as a Calvinists even if the particular church’s understanding of Calvinism is so modified as to seem sort of Arminian. And I think I see a tendency to assume those that do not wear a bold Calvinist banner are either liberal or cultish or something like that. At least that’s the way I perceive it (perception being part of the problem here ;)).
I only say these things here b/c I think I can–we are frank w/ each other and seem to be able to laugh the it all off (and sometimes the differences may not be as large as the labels make them) and trust each other at the end of the day. Being a Calvinist is the blonde cheerleader of theology; you (I) wish you could be one b/c it’s what everyone seems to want you to be and the only thing the majority of people will accept. But then the geeky “rejects” sometimes don’t realize how well they are actually valued/liked b/c of the creedence their own minds have given to a social system that is partially just a fairy tale reality that some influential individuals and outside media have created and in which even some of the popular kids are rather unwitting participants (just trying to do their thing, sort of glad for the advantage and “owning” it, but also not directly intending everything to be just so per se). Other “popular” kids, of course, control and taunt w/ their advantage. The occasional geeky kid finds his own way to fight loudly and effectively, too. I don’t know if that metaphor of high school social circles has any real pertinence, but I just thought I’d throw it out there. To my mind it does describe something of the dynamic I feel I encounter even in my isolated (mostly cyber) present situation.
What is your experience here? Are you (and it strikes me that this might actually be far more possible in charismatic circles than in evangelicalism at large) feeling a sort of opposite scenario where the Arminians rule the roost, and you too often feel stepped on or pushed aside for trying to join the party? I hope not, and I’d be interested to hear.
I’d add, for the record, that I’ve definitely been spiritually abused by certain variations of Arminian theology (and am somehow still not a Calvinist) as offering an example of the other side. I think talking to other sp. abuse “survivors” in the healing process some are sort of surprised that a theology other than Calvinism could be abusive, but that just means that they haven’t met charismatic abuses w/ their holiness flavors yet ;). (I say w/ love in my heart for my charismania stomping ground.)
And actually I think Arminianism lends itself to it MUCH more readily just from a theological standpoint. I mean, I think that’s probably precisely why many people want to step away from synergism. It can sound inherently pressure-filled.
And of course w/ Machen and Hodge and who-all being the prized academic support for fundamentalism, it’s easy for us peops to draw an ongoing (if possibly ill-advised) relationship btwn Reformed theology and the fundamentalist bulwark. Just racking my brain for random thoughts of possibly no substance while I wait out some tornado sirens well past my highly medicated bedtime… lol.
I think you might be on to something. I myself have experienced certain flavors of neo-reformed theology that lend themselves to abuse and control. Naming names seems crass sometimes but I think groups like Sovereign Grace Ministries and Newfrontiers are like that. I was part of Newfrontiers in between tours of duty w/ Vineyard and can attest first hand.
I have had friends who were part of Sovereign Grace who have said the same thing about their experiences. I certainly have a robust theology of the local church and its leadership but I think their has to be a better way to understand authority and submission.
Maybe that’s the other (more legitimate) reason neo-reformed types are labeled as fundamentalists. Because many groups like the groups mentioned above as well as many reformed baptists and OPC types have a suffocating and controlling spirit. Thoughts?
I’ve definitely heard that about SG, and some peops I know were abused in Reformed Baptist. My negative experiences were more mainstream than that though; e.g., just trying to work amid supposedly interdenominational campus ministries where it was sort of reformed-or-die.
Deborah, sorry to hear about the pain. Please remember that there are “Wesleyan” Arminians, and there are “Wesleyan-Holiness” Arminians, and then there are Classical Arminians (as Roger E. Olson calls them), who are not Wesleyan at all. These last are “Baptistic” (according to Lederle) and much less prone to judgmentalism. Peace.
Thanks Jhenderson, I am pretty much Arminian myself. I only meant to say that it makes more sense to me on the *surface* level that Arminian theologies could be easily twisted to abuse people (and in fact, I have a lot of admiration for holiness movements). But it would seem fear, pride, and control can combine w/ most any theology to produce spiritual abuse. This is all I meant. I’m sorry if I offended. Peace. Deb
Luke, the older I get, the more I am amused with labels. Remember, Brian McLaren’s subtitle to A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant,
liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical,
Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational,
depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian. The last two words pretty much says it all. So, when folks wanna know what I am, I just tell them “I am an unfinished Christian.”
hahaha! love it
The only problem there is 1 Corinthians 1:12 where Paul even rebukes the faction in Corinth that claimed “I am of Christ.”
I like that!
I like labels when they mean something. I hate labels when they are blurry. If someone says they are a Continuationist, I can understand that. Same with the term Cessationist. But when people start making up labels and applying them to people they don’t agree with… I’m gonna just say, “we’re all unfinished Christians.”
Weren’t the early Fundamentalists the good guys? I thought they took a stand against some very problematic ideas circulating throughout many Protestant Mainline groups… issues related to God and Scripture.
I haven’t spent a lot of time studying on Machen, but the books I have read of his were excellent… and I always thought those were examples of how the old Princeton Reformed guys had circles around primary (essential) doctrines while also making cases for their own views that were within those circles.
Yes they were the good guys. Actually I’m glad you brought that up. Because I am young (27, almost 28), credo-baptist, and calvinistic, I am always pegged as a “young, restless, reformed type”. I am okay with that to a point, but truthfully I am at heart much more “old” reformed. I much prefer Kuyper, Van Til, Ridderbos, Hodge, Machen, and Warfield. Even though I sometimes disagree with certain points. Guys like Piper, Mohler, Dever, etc… are fine and bring something to the table, but give me the old guys!
I just like good theology. Don’t care if it’s ancient or modern. Give me good stuff 🙂
Well me too. The new guys are like a meat lover’s pizza. I like meat lovers pizza, but I much prefer supreme. I hope the analogy (or is it metaphor) works. 😉
I’m under the impression they had a lot of good, although goodness knows I’ve disagreed w/ some of the little I’ve read. The book The Surprising Work of God by Rosell gives a bit of evangelical perspective into some of the ways even the early fundamentalist movement fought nasty against wider evangelicals. Sometimes this is more reflective of the power of controlling influencers using the work of scholars than it is of the scholars.
It’s interesting that even amid the very liberal bent of Princeton Theo these days, the word on the street is that you do not want to dare be a conservative but non-reformed there. There’s still a tiptoeing place for the one form of conservatives but not for others, I am told.
And, yes, they were HUGELY important in what they stood against and the creedence they once again gave to a high view of scripture.
Luke, they certainly were. They were mostly scholars and not hard-core haters at all. *The Fundamentals* were works of serious scholarship. When McIntire and Jones, etc., seemed to co-opt the movement is when “evangelicals” came to the fore in the 20th century as a movement by conservatives away from the “fightin’ Fundies.”
Luke Just Friday John MacArthur had some unflattering things to say about the “new reformed as he called it”. He said he was glad that their is a revival of reformed theology but hte Neoreformers (like yourself….LOL!) were muddying the water because you guys had no clue about ecclesiology ……… Another note, the new reformers seem to at times forget that there is a large arm of evangelicalism namely Arminian that are doing just as much as they are doing, everyone seem to be snubbing someone
I’d have to see what exactly Dr. MacArthur said, but on the surface, that’s a pretty ludicrus satement. Local church ecclesiology, while I have issues with the way it is often applied in neo-reformed circles, is one of the strengths of the movement.
Christian check out Grace to you Friday’s program
MacArthur’s concern has also been shared by guys like Horton and Trueman. But it’s RIDICULOUS to suggest that problems related to ecclesiology are found only in the younger generation of Reformed. As Trevin Wax has shown (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/01/11/the-elephant-room-as-a-snapshot-of-contemporary-evangelicalism/), it’s an issue within evangelicalism.
MacArthur just doesn’t like any sort of contextualization that he deems “crossing the line,” which is basically anything that comes across “contemporary” (use your imagination).
Great post BTW, love it!
Luke please do another article as to where you see this movement heading as it seeks to raise up another generation
I’d like to share these links with everyone. These may take a little time to read, but they each address an area of unity and theological purity that I believe are extremely helpful. And they come from different theological persuasions.
I don’t know why it didn’t post my entire comment. Let me try this again:http://reformedliterature.com/newton-a-guide-to-godly-disputation.php
Luke, McKnight may be refering to groups that blog such as the “Reformed Mafia” or the “Confessional Outhouse.” I find the “Outhouse” guys to be irenic (mostly) but they strongly believe that even most Reformed are not REFORMED, if you take my meaning. The Mafia seemed to have more (bad) attitude. Also, I have bumped into quite a few Reformed pastors who seem to think this. Would Horton fit here?
I hesitate to add Horton to a category like this because even Roger Olson, who is staunchly opposed to Reformed Theology, considers him a great partner in the discussion (see a recent post by Olson on this here).
I understand the problems people have with Calvinists…. I was in the same boat. I used to think Calvinists were the WORST people to talk too… seriously. Arrogant, self-righteous, etc. Everything that the “Doctrines of Grace” implore otherwise, IMO.
Personally, I would put someone like John MacArthur in this boat… and sometimes John Piper…
It seems to me that further clarification would be needed when referring to the “neoreformed.”
I’ve heard it used in a derogatory way by people who are not Reformed in their doctrine, and who, perhaps, see the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement as being a negative thing for the Church.
I’ve known young men in the faith who discovered the Reformed doctrines and then proceeded to berate, criticize, or otherwise alienate anyone who didn’t toe the same doctrinal lines and hold the same theological judgments as they did. Mark Driscoll’s conduct sometimes might be received in this way, and conduct such as this certainly has an affect on the perception of this term/movement on the people who are outside of it.
I’ve also heard “neoreformed” used with a more neutral or even positive connotation. Many have noticed the upswing in the number of young (twenties and thirties) people who are adherents to the Reformed doctrines, and some older Reformed people have taken heart in the fact that the younger generation has found tremendous value in these doctrines and the writers/leaders who espoused them.
I suppose the whole issue bears some similarity to the “Emergent Church” discussions that have mostly died out. In these conversations, you would have those who were outside of or critical of the movement using the term “emergent” to describe one whom they perceived to be theologically/culturally liberal, and you had those who counted themselves to be within the movement using the term to describe anyone who was open to rethinking the boundaries and interactions of church and culture. In either case, when you heard the term, you would need more information to determine what was really being said, or what was being implied by the use of the terminology.
So, to put it succinctly, the term can take on whatever connotation one may intend. As for me, I’m okay with being called “neoreformed,” or “reformed,” or “Calvinist”… Just don’t call me a fundamentalist. 😉
I have seen a few of those guys too.
I seem some of those young neo types as well who just think nthey happen on something everyone need to follow and when they dont line they get berated.
But overall it has been good for Evangelicalism even for those who dont hold to there position, the movement has brought new life to the church in general.
Agreed, although I’m not reformed. I agree w/ the rest. I think you summed it up well.
I have met a few who meet McKnight’s characterization of the “neoReformed”. Forgive me for misunderstanding your original Facebook post and jumping to the conclusion that you were referring to the “neocalvinists” in Driscoll and Keller.
As stated before, I have been a Calvinist for the last 11 years and I have attended many a potluck where these hot button issues have been vigorously debated. Honestly, in my 11 years there, I had not developed a systematic theology because there were so many bright scholars and well reasoned arguments on both sides of the issue.
I frown upon those who would draw such a narrow path and insist that their interpretation of scripture is the only way to salvation. That’s why we have so many denominations. If you disagree with an interpretation, form a new one based on that. Interesting how he mentions Michael Horton. I, too, followed Horton religiously and adopted many of his stances (the OPC I left by and large agrees with him), but then I also found the Federal Vision and NT Wright appealing. Ecclesiology became a huge issue for me, and that’s what eventually led me to the Catholic Church.