Swooning too soon
OK. So everyone is raving about the fact that Time magazine, identifying what it considers to be the top 10 ideas that are changing the world right now, suggests that “the New Calvinism” is having the third most significant impact. It expands on its notion of the resurgence of Calvinism here. Incidentally, Justin Taylor points out that we have been here before.
All the right references are there:
Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don’t operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, “everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world” – with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom’s hottest links.
All of a sudden, the Christian blogosphere is awash with excited bloggers posting that – guess what, folks! – Time magazine thinks we are important. Honestly, it sounds not unlike a bunch of teenagers all swaggering through the school corridors because the prettiest girl in the school has been making eyes at them!
Should we perhaps calm down a little? I am pleased that the force of a more Biblical Christianity is recognised more widely. I think it is plain from Scripture and history that when God is at work, even the world will be forced to reckon with it: “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). However, if Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, then do we need to get quite so excited about the fact that Time magazine thinks we are significant? After all, the piece was hardly a glowing endorsement, although it mercifully lacked obvious and vicious invective against a more Biblical understanding of God’s truth. Coming to this kind of prominence is unlikely to be a simple indication that we are about to take the world by storm; it is as or more likely to be a warning that we are about to face unparalleled assaults. After all, we must bear in mind that an analysis of a disease needs to be made before the world mobilises to wipe it out.
Would it make any difference if Time magazine listed Calvinism as third of the most dangerous ideas currently being bandied about in the world, just below Common or Garden Totalitarianism and Islamofascism? Would it make any difference to the ultimate progress of the kingdom if we were (a) hymned to high heaven (b) vilified to the extreme (c) given a stiff and thorough ignoring?
Could it be that what seems to be the net reaction to this piece suggests we are a little too concerned with what men think of us, that we are too ready to receive – and, by implication, pursue or even crave – the applause and favour of men? Could there be a danger of carnality in our reaction? I remember Spurgeon’s warning – fairly black-and-white, but with some wisdom in it nonetheless – in which he suggested that we would be wise not to listen too much to praise, because we would then find it much harder to deal with criticism. This is the man who faced his death confident that his memory would be execrated for many years, although a more distant future would vindicate it.
Getting a mention in Time magazine must not be the apogee of our ambition. Let us not get flustered just because the pretty world winks at us. She might just as quickly turn upon us. Let us not be deafened by the applause of the goats and the commendations of the wolves. Madam Bubble is as dangerous a foe as Giant Despair; the Enchanted Ground is as dangerous a place as the Hill of Difficulty. Vanity Fair can turn a man’s head.
Christ is building his kingdom, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it. Neither do the articles of Time ensure it. Let us not swoon too soon, but rather work while it is day.