So anyway, my parents' megachurch had a substitute pastor yesterday and he said some things that were more, um, "out there" than usual. Specifically, he was promoting a far
more explicitly Calvinist theology than is usual for this particular congregation. He's in his 20s, too, and dressed like a stereotypical YRR hipster-type youth pastor (basically he looked like Mark Driscoll, without the swearing).
This particular church belongs to a denomination that does not officially endorse Calvinism, but has individual congregations everywhere on the spectrum. Historically it's been more of a Billy Graham-type, ecumenical sort of megachurch evangelicalism, rather than the newer Calvinist breed.
This guy was talking about his time in a Reformed seminary, and was mentioning John Knox. He described Knox as a "former Roman Catholic priest who became a Christian after hearing a Protestant preacher speak
". He talked about how "the Roman Catholic Queen Mary....was persecuting Christians"*. He said Christianity begins when you "hear the Word being preached" and respond by understanding and believing. He kept talking over and over again about inerrancy, inerrancy, inerrancy. He mentioned predestination (although not double predestination, thank God!) He never mentioned baptism or communion at all
. He acted as though the Bible was written directly to us in the present, so we can read and understand it by ourselves (basically nuda scriptura). He said that expository preaching
is an absolute must, and must be the center of our worship, etc.
What's ironic is that just prior to the sermon, they had the worship band sing "This I Believe (The Creed)
" by Hillsong, which is based on the Nicene Creed. It's ironic for two reasons: number one, neo-Calvinists generally hate
Hillsong and everything it stands for, and number two, the lines "I believe in the Saints' Communion / And in Your holy Church" don't really jibe well with either Hillsong's own theology or
that of the YRR. How can you believe in the communion of saints if you don't honor them, and you believe as John Calvin did that only God knows who "the elect" are? You can't be in communion with the saints if you don't know who they are.
The Catholic-bashing was a major surprise, because the previous senior pastor never talked like that (in fact, he jokingly once described Minneapolis as "our Vatican" because the headquarters of the denomination is here). It seems like, practically overnight, there's been a sea change in the leadership, and Billy Graham and C. S. Lewis are out and R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur are in. I saw it coming for a while, since every so often someone would quote John Piper or use YRR-sounding language, but only now does it seem to have kicked into high gear. Really
high gear. The recent retirement of the former senior pastor (he has no permanent replacement yet) was probably a factor.
Basically, although this pastor didn't explicitly say so, it sounded like he was explicitly trying to distance himself as far as possible from Catholicism and Orthodoxy, by emphasizing precisely those doctrines which Protestantism disagrees with them on (while ignoring those areas where they agree, like the Trinity). This doesn't seem to be an accident; many YRR-types believe that a second "great apostasy" occurred after the Reformation during which the Protestant churches essentially "went medieval" and became too much like Catholicism, and thus a "second Reformation" will be necessary to restore the true gospel of grace. These preachers see themselves in an activist role, as the vanguard of that movement, and Roger E. Olson
(an Arminian) has criticized their tendency to infiltrate the leadership of other, non-Calvinist churches in an attempt to "Reform" them. Many of them have very mixed feelings about Lewis (they only admire him because he was a smart guy and an apologist who took aim at the skeptics, but they think he "got the atonement wrong" because of his close-to-Orthodox beliefs). And they view John Wesley as practically a villain.
I absolutely love this Robert Araraki article
. It gives an explanation of how, in Protestant circles, the prevailing ideas of what constitutes "sound doctrine" always seem to be in a state of flux. Several decades ago, Calvinism was practically unheard of but premillennialism and Zionism were seen as a "gospel issue" and a litmus test for evangelical orthodoxy. Premillennialism even wormed its way into many denominations' statements of faith. Now, many younger pastors no longer believe in it, but five-point Calvinism has been the "gospel issue" du jour. Billy Graham was considered a conservative evangelical at one point, now he's vilified as a dangerous ecumenist by many Calvinists in the SBC who don't like the fact that he refused to sheep steal from Catholics and Orthodox. These shifts of opinion happen and they happen fast, just like in politics.
So why is the title of this thread "a baby step"? Simple; watching this sermon kind of shocked me into action. I didn't want my parents to get brainwashed, since the longer they listened to this stuff, the more resistant they might become to me
once I expressed other views. I told my mom over the phone later that day that I had some misgivings about what this pastor said. I mentioned that "when you've learned about critical thinking and theology in college like I have, this kind of thing starts happening to you--you don't just take what people say at face value". She was very understanding and even complimented me for still retaining what I learned in school and applying it in my daily life. She doesn't know why
I disagree with this pastor yet (although we both agreed that we'd talk in more detail later). But now she does know that I'm not 100% on board with everything the people at her church do and say, and that I have my own views
. Most of all, the fact that her reaction was understanding and supportive, not judgmental, is something that makes me feel a lot
better! There's always a first step for everything. Now I know that at least my mom (not sure about my dad) will be open to what I have to say and that I probably won't need to keep secrets from her.
I'm sure there have to be other folks at my parents' church who aren't on board with the Calvinizing trend, or who at least could be persuaded to see things from my perspective. Many of the YRR share a desire to move away from subjective emotionalism back to a more historical form of Christianity. Where I would disagree with them, of course, is that I would see Fr. Peter Gillquist and his community as the best role model to follow, rather than trying to achieve a "second reformation" by replacing 19th/20th century fundamentalism with the 16th century version.
*Of course, when you hear someone like that bash Catholicism or imply that Catholics aren't Christians, you can be sure
they feel the exact same way about the Orthodox, since from the perspective of low-churchers, there's no difference between the two.